DUNWOODY — The Dunwoody Police Department has launched an initiative to make security cameras and license plate readers more efficient tools to solve and prevent crime.
The “Silent Partners” initiatives asks residents and businesses with security cameras to voluntarily register those devices at dunwoodyga.gov/silentpartners.
For security cameras, like Ring or Nest doorbell cameras, the portal only provides law enforcement with the location of registered cameras. If a crime occurs near a camera listed on the map, investigators may request video footage from a specific time period to look for suspicious cars, people or other evidence.
Cooperation with any request is voluntary. Only law enforcement personnel have access to the portal, and police can only access the video footage if the camera owner grants permission.
“In the past, we would have to canvas an area and go door-to-door to look for surveillance video that might help solve a case,” Chief Billy Grogan said. “Silent Partners streamlines the process by providing the location of cameras. We still have to ask for and receive permission before accessing the data.”
License Plate Readers (LPRs) work differently than security cameras. Most license plate readers take still photos and record data from the photo, like the license plate number and the make, model or color of the car.
The Dunwoody Police Department already uses about 20 fixed LPRs in high-traffic areas to capture images of license plates and to identify stolen vehicles, stolen tags and wanted suspects. Several businesses, apartment complexes and neighborhood groups have installed their own LPRs.
Unlike security cameras, police can connect with registered LPRs directly and receive real-time alerts when a license plate associated with a stolen vehicle or wanted person passes the camera. This allows officers to respond right away and possibly prevent a crime.
“Last year, we decided to invest in a license plate reader for the front of our neighborhood, and we found that it makes a big difference,” said Dino Sammarco, Ashford Chase Homeowners Association president, in a video promoting the Silent Partners initiative. “It gives the police some additional tools to help protect our families. I think it’s been a smart investment.”
Flock Safety and Vigilant Solutions are two popular LPR providers. Pricing usually starts around $2,000 a year. Georgia Power Lighting Services also offers a program called SiteView.
According to Flock Safety, neighborhoods that install cameras see a 30 to 50 percent reduction in crime. Dunwoody Police have already seen success using LPRs as an investigative tool and want to grow their ability to do so.
“We’re looking forward to working with the community to build up this program,” Chief Grogan said. “This takes community policing to a new and important level.”
Dunwoody is one of several Metro Atlanta cities using security cameras and LPRs as law enforcement tools. Brookhaven, Sandy Springs, Acworth, Marietta, Milton, John Creek and Kennesaw have developed similar programs, further incentivizing the technology.
“Criminals are going to go where the low hanging fruit is,” Johns Creek Police Chief Ed Densmore said. “If everybody surrounding us ends up using these tools and we don’t, we’re exposing ourselves. That’s just a fact.”
However, for some these technologies also raise concerns about privacy and a ‘surveillance state.’ To reassure skeptics, Dunwoody says the silent partners portal is voluntary, confidential, and only accessible by law enforcement personnel for crime prevention or investigation purposes.