Dubuque Police Exploring Automated License Plate-Reading Technology
May 11, 2023 -- For Immediate Release
A May 15 Dubuque City Council work session will focus on automated license plate-reading (ALPR) technology and include a presentation on how it is used, the technology involved, and how it supports law enforcement and public safety.
ALPR technology captures images of vehicle license plates and allows law enforcement agencies to identify and compare plates against those of cars driven by people suspected of being involved in illegal activities. ALPR technology is different from speed enforcement and traffic enforcement cameras and does not measure vehicle speed or issue citations.
The work session will feature a presentation by staff from Flock Safety, a public safety operating system company that provides ALPR hardware and related software to cities, businesses, schools, and law enforcement in communities around the country.
According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, ALPR technology is being adopted by law enforcement agencies “to enhance their enforcement and investigative capabilities, expand their collection of relevant data, and expedite the tedious and time-consuming process of comparing vehicle license plates with lists of stolen, wanted, and other vehicles of interest.”
ALPR systems typically capture a contextual photo of the vehicle, an image of the license plate, the geographic coordinates of where the image was captured, and the date and time of the recording. The purpose of the technology is to identify vehicles, not the vehicle occupants. These systems do not identify an individual or access personal information through analysis of license plate numbers.
Examples of uses of an ALPR system may include:
- Locate stolen, wanted, or suspect vehicles
- Locate suspect(s) of criminal investigation or arrest warrants
- Locate witnesses or victims of violent crime
- Locate missing children, elderly persons, or other missing persons
- Protect the public during special events/situational awareness
- Protect critical infrastructure
Dubuque Police Chief Jeremy Jensen requested funding in the City’s fiscal year 2024 budget, which begins July 1, 2023, to purchase ALPR technology. The funding request was approved but the purchase and implementation of the technology would require additional City Council approval. The May 15 work session will provide additional details on the technology and its proposed use by Dubuque police.
“ALPR technology is another tool to assist law enforcement,” said Jensen. “It’s a ‘force multiplier’ that saves staff time and gets critical information to officers much faster than manually monitoring traffic for specific vehicles.” Jensen said utilizing the latest technology helps address staffing issues and provides objective information and can remove human bias and error from some processes. On May 1, the City Council held a work session to review how the City’s current traffic/security camera system is utilized. In June, the City Council is expected to discuss automated speed enforcement cameras.
The May 15 work session will begin at 5:45 p.m. in the City Council Chambers on the second floor of the Historic Federal Building at 350 W. Sixth Street. Like City Council meetings, all work sessions are open to the public. However, these sessions are meant to be a “working” meeting where the City Council receives in-depth information regarding a particular subject. Public input is usually not allowed at work sessions and no formal action is taken on the issue being discussed at these meetings. Work sessions are broadcast on CityChannel Dubuque (channels 8 and 117.2 on Mediacom and channel 5 on ImOn) and streamed on the City’s website (www.cityofdubuque.org/livestream) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/CityOfDubuque).
# # #
Jeremy Jensen, Chief of Police