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Port Huron to install 24 license-plate reading Flock cameras at $62,500 per year

Jim Bloch for BWHL A screenshot of Port Huron Police Chief Joe Platzer at the city council meeting.

By Jim Bloch

Port Huron will mount 24 automated license-plate reading Falcon cameras at strategic street locations around the city. The cameras are intended to help police reduce, solve and prevent crimes. The cameras are produced and monitored by Flock Safety based in Atlanta, Georgia.

The leasing arrangement calls for the city pay $70,900 the first year, which includes installation, and $62,500 per year subsequently.

After recently completing a 60-day trial run of the cameras, the city council voted unanimously to approve the deal at its regular meeting Sept. 26.

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“Flock Safety cameras are used in over 2,000 cities across 40 states and the company works with thousands of law enforcement agencies,” said City Manager James Freed in his memo to the city council. “There are over 30 Police Departments in the State of Michigan using Flock Safety cameras and several police agencies in St. Clair County.”

Photo courtesy of
Port Huron will soon have 24 cameras similar to this one mounted at key street locations around the city.

At the council meeting, Police Chief Joe Platzer discussed some of the 25 success stories directly attributable to the cameras, as heard on the recording of the meeting posted on the city’s YouTube channel.

“Within the 60 days, we’ve recovered five stolen vehicles,” said Platzer. “The first day the cameras were up, we recovered a stolen vehicle out of MSP Brighton. Unfortunately, we recovered the vehicle, but the person who stole it went down to Algonac and stole another vehicle, but was arrested in Clyde Township. We recovered a stolen auto out of Croswell with a wanted juvenile in it. There was a stolen vehicle out of the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office with four individuals who were taken into custody. And we had two stolen vehicles that were recovered in Port Huron. The last one was just last week. An individual unfortunately left his vehicle unlocked with the keys in the car. The vehicle was stolen but within 25 minutes, we had the person in custody due to this system.”

The system help identify an elderly Livingston County woman who had driven to Port Huron, but who had no idea where she was. The system helped police arrest a person who had driven away after strangling another person. Police executed a high risk felony stop of a getaway car following a shooting in Pontiac. Police picked up the suspect in a bomb threat at a Port Huron manufacturing company, but the person turned out to be innocent.

Platzer said that safeguards are in place to prevent the unauthorized use of the cameras.

There must be an official reason and complaint number to use the system, which is audited annually. A policy is in place guiding the use of the system.

“There are severe penalties in place for the misuse of the system, just like the Law Enforcement Information Network, ” Platzer said. “We checked with our corporate council and there is no violation of the Fourth Amendment.”

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the right of people to be secure in their homes and protected against unreasonable searches and seizures of their residences, papers and effects.

The cameras are “placed on public property and public streets,” said Platzer. “There is no intrusion on private property.”

In addition to the Detroit Police Department, Michigan State Police and the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department, four agencies in St. Clair County use the system, with two more expected to come on line in the next month, the chief said.

Council member Anita Ashford asked about asked about the system’s potential for racial profiling, the practice of using race or ethnicity as a basis for suspecting people of crimes.

The cameras are gathering plate numbers and vehicle descriptions only, the chief said.

“There’s no facial recognition,” Platzer said. “The cameras are not used for writing red light tickets or speeding. It’s not being used for anything like that to generate revenue. That’s against the law in the state of Michigan.”

The images captured by the cameras stay in the system for 30 days and then drop off the server.

Jim Bloch is a freelance writer based in St. Clair, Michigan. Contact him at

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