Hemet’s mini license plate reader cameras to be evaluated

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Hemet, along with many other cities across the state, has employed mini cameras which are installed at intersections to record the license plates of each car passing by. The city said it considers them a valuable law enforcement tool, resulting in the recovery of many stolen vehicles and being of use in some criminal cases.

The partnership between the city and Atlanta-based Flock Safety, who installed 20 license plate reader cameras in the city, runs out in less than two years. Thus far, according to the city manager’s office the city has received no complaints from the public that the cameras may be infringing on their individual rights; however, other cities that once had the cameras installed are now taking them down because of such complaints.

The city’s contract with Flock Safety may continue, as Hemet police Chief Eddie Pust sees the partnership as “breaking technology with good old-fashioned police work.”

“We are looking forward to closing more cases and putting more criminals behind bars with the help of these cameras,” he said.

Also lauding the camera’s benefits is Garrett Langley, CEO of Flock Safety, who said in a news release, “We believe everyone has the right to public safety. Our mission is to eliminate crime, and we’re proud to work with the city of Hemet to make the area even safer.”

Although the result has been beneficial for Hemet and the other cities, hackers have been busy trying to undo the license plate readers, while others are selling the concept to private citizens who can also install the cameras if they so choose.

One thing the hackers have found is a new clothing line that has pictures of license plates on them confuses the cameras, while other private citizens are installing the cameras at their property gates to maintain privacy and discourage criminals.

Hacker and designer Kate Rose unveiled in social media “the new range of clothing at the DefCon cybersecurity conference in Las Vegas. In a talk, she explained that hoodies, shirts, dresses and skirts trigger automated license plate readers to inject useless data into systems used to track civilians.”

The value of the cameras will be evaluated in the city, according to city manager Chris Lopez.

‘The city will evaluate the program and determine its success,” he said. “It’s tough to predict what things will be like in two years.”

Meanwhile, Pust said criminals “should really reconsider committing a crime in Hemet, because it will likely land them in jail.”

Tony Ault can be reached by email at tault@reedermedia.com.