The Fraser City Council approved the purchase of eight Flock Safety cameras to be positioned around Fraser by the Department of Public Safety.

The Fraser City Council approved the purchase of eight Flock Safety cameras to be positioned around Fraser by the Department of Public Safety.

Photo provided by the Troy Police Department

Fraser approves adoption of Flock camera system

By: Brendan Losinski | Fraser-Clinton Chronicle | Published October 23, 2023

 Flock Safety cameras capture vehicle information such as license plate numbers and color. The data can be flagged by law enforcement in order to search for vehicles of interest to investigations.

Flock Safety cameras capture vehicle information such as license plate numbers and color. The data can be flagged by law enforcement in order to search for vehicles of interest to investigations.

Photo provided by the Troy Police Department


FRASER — At its regular meeting on Sept. 14, the Fraser City Council approved a measure to purchase a Flock Safety camera system to aid the city’s police force in its investigations.

The measure was adopted unanimously, although Councilwoman Suzanne Kalka and Councilwoman Dana Sutherland were absent. The City Council approved the purchase of a two-year contract for the cameras, which amounted to approximately $3,000 per camera per year in addition to a one-time installation cost. Eight cameras were approved for purchase, although the cost of three will be reimbursed to the city by the Fraser Public Schools district, which partnered with the city on the initiative to buy the camera system.

“We talked to the Fraser superintendent and school board because we want to put cameras up there to deter anyone from going near the schools with ill intent,” explained Fraser Director of Public Safety Samantha Kretzschmar. “That was what led to our partnership.”

Kretzschmar added that the system is designed to capture vehicle data which can then be retrieved by law enforcement officers under proper circumstances.

“The Flock system is basically a license plate reader system,” she said. “It is specific cameras put up in specific locations through a city. The cameras will snap a license plate that records each license plate. Let’s say there’s a crime that occurs at a gas station and it was a red pickup truck that went in a certain direction. An agency can put ‘red pickup truck’ at a particular time and the Flock system will notify the department of any red pickup trucks that went through the area at that time. They can then get the license plate of the camera to help track down a suspect.”

The locations of the camera have not yet been determined and may be moved as the Fraser Police Department determines where they would be most effective.

Kretzschmar also stressed that the system is not designed to capture traffic crimes or pick out details of individuals, only facets of vehicles such as license plates, color and distinguishing marks such as bumper stickers.

“It doesn’t capture any demographic information or record any information on who is driving,” she said. “It’s a tool for the police. We’re hoping it might serve as a deterrent. Someone looking to, say, burglarize cars or homes may avoid a community if they know their vehicle can get recorded.”

Data is automatically deleted after 30 days, requires a case number to be entered to prevent abuse and is encrypted using software created by the FBI to ensure any data remains private unless necessitated by an active investigation.

“There are quite a few fail-safes to prevent abuse,” Kretzschmar said. “You can’t just arbitrarily pull up videos. Only certain department members have access to it. They are vetted by (department leadership) which supervisors will have access. You have to put in a case number. They are only kept on file for 30 days before they are permanently deleted. We can audit the system to see who is accessing information and what they are pulling up so we can ensure it is being used for the intended purposes.”

The Troy Police Department implemented the Flock system earlier this year and have said it’s been a game-changer in how they are able to search for wanted vehicles.

“We adopted the Flock system at the beginning of 2023. The first was installed in the beginning of July of this year. We now have 23 cameras,” said Sgt. Ben Hancock, of the Troy Police Department. “If you keep an eye on our weekly crime summary, it will say officers were notified via Flock cameras when the data was relevant and contributed to an arrest. … Our road patrol captain led the push to adopt the Flock system. He said it has helped us out with investigations. It allows us to have recovered several stolen vehicles and (we) made several arrests based on Flock camera data.”

He added that public feedback about the system has been good and that they have not received any concerns about the nature of the system.

“Overall, the feedback I heard from the community was very positive. I think people have that extra level of reassurance since we know who is coming and going from the city of Troy,” Hancock said. “It is just another investigative tool or safety tool we can utilize. It’s not being used as any kind of surveillance tool.”

The Flock system is already being used by more than 4,100 law enforcement agencies across the country, including Sterling Heights, Roseville and the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office. Law enforcement agencies can opt in to share their data with other communities also using the Flock system so that if a vehicle is spotted in a community that was involved in a crime in another, the original community can be notified and both communities can respond.

“The beauty of this system is that it’s a Flock network, so other agencies that utilize this technology can grant access to their system,” said Kretzschmar. “You can decide who has access to the system, but you can share (data) with other agencies so you can share Flock information for crimes. Sterling Heights, for instance, has this system. They can put in information on a crime and if the car they’re looking for shows up on our cameras, we will be alerted, and we can work with Sterling Heights to find the relevant vehicle.”

The system is not only effective regarding wanted vehicles but can be an enormous tool in searches for missing persons or Amber Alert situations.

“One huge benefit is the Amber Alert system and Flock,” said Kretzschmar. “We’ve all seen Amber Alerts on freeway signs asking to look out for a particular vehicle. This is a perfect scenario for Flock. I’m anxious to get this technology in place. I’m hoping it serves as a great benefit to the city and surrounding communities.”

Kretzschmar said that any time a surveillance tool is added to a police department’s resources there is bound to be some concern about overreach, but she believes this is a system that can be managed responsibly and used to help Fraser residents.

“It is not out there looking to capture driver information or catch people in traffic crimes,” she said. “It’s for targeting particular cars involved in criminal activity or to find a vulnerable adult who may be in a car. It’s to find specific vehicles for specific reasons.”