City approves license to allow installation of road cameras

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published March 22, 2023

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STERLING HEIGHTS — A recent action by the Sterling Heights City Council took another step toward making it easier for police to track suspects’ license plates.

The City Council voted 6-1 March 7 to allow the installation of roadway cameras that read license plates along certain roads in the city. Councilman Michael Radtke was the lone dissenting vote.

More specifically, the proposal approves a revocable license between Sterling Heights and Macomb County to install the cameras on poles in the public rights of way along roads that are under the Macomb County Department of Roads’ jurisdiction.

According to a city document, the Department of Roads has jurisdiction over Metropolitan Parkway and Dequindre, Hayes, Mound, Schoenherr and Utica roads.

In 2022, city officials debated the inclusion of funds in the 2022-23 budget to fund the leasing of Flock Safety license plate reader cameras that would monitor roads and pick up vehicles’ license plate information.

Last year, Sterling Heights Police Chief Dale Dwojakowski said the cameras don’t enforce red lights, don’t have facial recognition, don’t record live footage and only store data for 30 days.    

Last August, the council approved an agreement with Flock Group Inc. to gain access to the system, officials said.

During the March 7 meeting, Radtke suggested that the council pull the item off the consent agenda for separate discussion. He said he is “stridently against the Flock camera system” due to privacy concerns and said Canton Township recently turned down the camera idea “after the residents realized … how invasive it was to their privacy.”

According to Sterling Heights City Manager Mark Vanderpool, law enforcement agencies use the Flock cameras to read license plates when trying to track down people with outstanding warrants or fleeing criminals on the loose.

Vanderpool explained that the system is widely used throughout the U.S., by the Michigan State Police and in nearby counties and cities. He added that Sterling Heights police already have access to information from Warren’s Flock camera system as part of a mutual aid type of agreement.

“There have been countless examples of where criminal activity has been quickly abated and resolved through the use of Flock camera systems,” Vanderpool said.

“It cannot be used for any other purpose. There are very rigid requirements, much like the (Law Enforcement Information Network) system, that if a police officer misused or abused the system, they would face disciplinary action, and it’s quite severe.”

When asked how many cameras would be set up in the city, Vanderpool said there would be “multiple” and that “we certainly don’t want to identify locations.”

According to the city document in the board meeting packet, the city plans to have 22 cameras, and 10 of those will be along roads under the Macomb County Department of Roads’ jurisdiction.

Mayor Pro Tem Liz Sierawski said she still favors the system’s use “because of the need to use technology to the best of our abilities.”

“I know that, yes, it can be interpreted by some as maybe a possible invasion of their privacy,” she said. “But at the same time, it’s also a tool that we can use to help in an emergent situation.”

Find out more about the Flock Safety camera system by visiting