MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa- The Marshalltown Police Department is hoping to implement a new technology to help improve public safety.

Marshalltown Police Captain Kiel Stevenson proposed the potential purchase of 32 Flock License Plater Reader Cameras to the city council earlier this month.

Last month, Marshalltown Police said more traffic cameras may be coming to the town after they saw success with their original speed cameras that were implemented.

However, Stevenson said that the Flock system is different from a traditional traffic camera. According to him, while traffic cameras can show the same information, they cannot process the information the way the Flock system can.

With traditional traffic cameras, an officer has to review the footage, and there are limits to what they will be able to identify. Further, the Marshalltown Police Department continues to face challenges with staffing, making this task difficult.

Stevenson said that the Flock system “can identify vehicle make and model, color, identifying features on the vehicle, and specifically the license plate.” These are all tools that Stevenson said would be able to assist police in their investigations and cannot be derived from an officer looking through footage from traditional traffic cameras.

“These new cameras give us that information immediately and again it’s just using technology as kind of a force multiplier for us. In times when we’re short hand already, it cuts down on hours worth of work for officers,” said Stevenson.

Flock Safety technology is already being used by 13 other law enforcement agencies throughout Iowa. These agencies include West Des Moines Police, University of Iowa Police, Council Bluffs Police, Altoona Police, Clive Police, Ankeny Police, Urbandale Police, Waukee Police, Glenwood Police, Camanche Police, Clinton Police, Polk County Conservation, and Carter Lake Police. Private and commercial entities in the state also use the technology.

The conversation around these cameras will continue at the City Council Meeting on Monday October 23rd. Stevenson hopes that the council will pass a resolution allowing Marshalltown Police to move forward with a contract with Flock.

Several councilmembers expressed their support for the implementation of this technology.

Councilmember Jeff Schneider has a background in IT, and he said that he plans to support the program. His statement said in part, “Technology like these cameras can be abused, but my worries about this specific system and usage have allayed in a number of ways.”

He continued by listing the reasons he supports the initiative. These were:

  • there’s an audit log for everything that’s done on the system
  • there’s a 30 day retention period for the data collected
  • Marshalltown Police are the sole entities with access to the data
  • the council can stop the program if it’s abused in any way

Councilmembers Mike Ladehoff and Greg Nichols also expressed their support for the proposed system.

Ladehoff said, “We have had cameras watching public places for well over 15 years. The cameras information is deleted after 30 days and does not contain facial recognition or do traffic enforcement. The upgraded cameras will keep Marshalltown a safe place to live and work. ”

Nichols also provided a statement. His said in part, “The implementation of a Car License Plate Recognition system has pros and cons. I believe regarding the car identification the pros in this outweigh the cons so I plan on supporting it at this time.”