SIDNEY — Ten Flock Safety cameras — which will help law enforcement — will be installed around the city of Sidney by the end of the summer.

Police Chief Will Balling provided Sidney City Council with a presentation about the camera system during its Monday evening meeting.

“Their purpose is not to capture red light or speed violations. The camera system is a valuable tool to assist our investigators in solving serious crimes that occur in our city,” Balling pointed out.

The cameras help law enforcement investigate crime by providing objective evidence, such as license plates and vehicle characteristics, he explained.

“To proactively prevent crime from occurring in Sidney, the cameras send a real-time alert to law enforcement when a stolen car or known wanted suspect from a state or national crime database enters the jurisdiction. They can also send alerts if a vehicle associated with a missing person in an AMBER or Silver Alert is detected,” Balling said. “Each search requires a justification, and the data is never sold or shared with third parties. The cameras will be used to solve and reduce property and criminal violations. If a serious event occurs officers will have the ability to search for suspect vehicles travelling to and from the crime scene.“

Flock Safety cameras are in use in over 2,000 cities across 40 states, and the company works with thousands of law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement have reported crime reductions of up to 70% when deploying Flock Safety in their communities.

Vandalia Police Department, Bellefontaine Police Department, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Centerville Police Department, Trotwood Police Department and the Moraine Police Department are some of the other law enforcement agencies that have also implemented this technology, Balling noted.

One of the best features of this system, he said, is the ability to share information among all the departments utilizing it. If Sidney Police has a suspect from Dayton or another area that utilizes the Flock Safety system, the system may help provide information about that person and where they may be located.

Eight of the 10 cameras have already been installed around Sidney; installation of the final two are delayed due to road construction. All 10 cameras will be operational by the end of the summer, Balling said.

When asked by Council member Scott Roddy about the camera locations, Balling said they are strategically placed around the outskirts of the city. Balling said he would need to email the city manager for the exact location of each camera and get that information to council members.

“We wanted to put them on the high probability areas of people coming into town. … Each of the most poplar, most frequently traveled areas that occur to come in, we are trying to identity those,” Balling said. “Right now, we have some to go by the Interstate and on 47, but due to the construction, we are holding off.”

Flock Safety is the provider of the service, Balling further explained, and said if captured information is needed, they have up to 30 days to get it from Flock. The cameras are solar powered.

Balling said the cameras are expensive, and at this time, the city could only afford 10 of them. The yearly cost of each camera is $2,500, which includes service, updates and damage repair or replacement. The costs are covered by the city’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

“They have seen a reduction in crime, pretty much across the board, in every jurisdiction. Columbus metro now utilizes them and they have seen drastic reductions. So if an individual, say, steals a car, goes down on U.S 40 left, and they are driving into Columbus, all of them, basically, dispatch as they are talking to multiple crews, especially during multiple jurisdictions, can let them know exactly where the car is going. And then they have the license plate and then they can search by the license plate,” City Manager Andrew Bowsher explained to council members about how the system works.

Balling added the cameras will be able to search for a vehicle, by color, make (and model) or even down to a small detail of the bumper stickers on it, or other characteristics.

Vice Mayor Steve Wagner asked if privacy had been an issue in any other previously implemented areas, which Balling said he asked about also and learned there has never been a problem or challenge brought forth.

Sidney Police plans to review the system after one year to determine the plan going forward.

By Sheryl Roadcap

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