Douglas County Sheriff’s Office: License-plate reading cameras safe, secure

WOWT 6 News 10 p.m. Sunday newscast
Published: Aug. 21, 2022 at 10:46 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - On Tuesday, the Omaha city council will make a decision about installing license-plate reading cameras across the city.

It sparked debate at the council meeting last week about data gathering and privacy, and on Sunday, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office is setting the record straight again - saying the system is safe, secure, and successful.

“If there is a lost loved one or a serious criminal act, we would think the public would want us to pull out all of the tools we have to make sure that we solve that crime. this is just another tool in our toolbox,” says Chief Deputy Wayne Hudson with the Sheriff’s Office.

Hudson says currently, there are 15 cameras that the sheriff’s office already uses in their jurisdiction. Tuesday, they’re hoping to add 10 more as part of a pilot project with the Flock Safety System.

The system is simple, Hudson says.

First, deputies enter descriptions or license plate numbers of wanted cars into the camera system. As cars pass the cameras on the road, a photo is taken of the car and the plates.

If the plates or the car match the description provided in the system, a notification is immediately sent to patrol officers.

Hudson says the technology is pretty common, too.

“It’s being used currently right now in other jurisdictions in Nebraska, on the east coast, west coast, they’ve had it for years, we’re just catching up to it.”

The decision to add 10 more cameras within the city limits, where the sheriff’s officer jurisdiction meets Omaha Police’s, lies in the hands of council members. Some of which expressed concerns over trust, data gathering, and violations of privacy.

“I’m sure there’s a lot of mistrust in the public as to what this is going to lead to,” said Councilman Don Rowe.

“I want to provide law enforcement with all the tools that you need, all the training that you need this may be going a little too far for me when it comes to also individual liberties and our rights,” said Councilwoman Aimee Melton.

However, Chief Deputy Hudson says the cameras have already helped them solve several crimes.

Not only do the cameras not have a live feed of traffic, but they also can’t track where cars are going, photos of the cars don’t show who is in the vehicle, and it can’t use any facial recognition.

Hudson also says it’s incredibly secure.

“The data is only going to be going to the sheriff’s office,” he says. “nd, the encryption data is that of a top federal agency, FBI and CIA so it’s not something that someone can tap into,.”

“After 30 days, any data in that system, unless we’ve asked for it to be put to the side or saved, it will be automatically deleted.”