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The new cameras utilize motion-activation technology and allow Syracuse police to collect data to identify the make, color, model and license plate of vehicles entering each entrance to the mall.
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The Syracuse Police Department and Flock Safety, a surveillance technology company, have partnered with Destiny USA mall to place license plate reading cameras at every vehicle entrance in an effort to reduce crime.
Since being installed on Aug. 9, the cameras have been “highly effective” in stopping crime, wrote Aiden McGuire, the director of corporate communications at Pyramid Management Group, in an email to The Daily Orange. At the same time, organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union have strongly opposed the use of Flock Safety’s systems.
“From identifying stolen vehicles to vehicles of known shoplifters, they’re helping us prevent, deter and solve crime in ways that are having an immediate impact,” McGuire wrote on behalf of Pyramid, who owns the Destiny USA property.
The cameras utilize motion-activation technology and allow SPD to collect data to identify the make, color, model and license plate of vehicles entering each entrance to the mall, according to a joint press release from SPD and Pyramid.
“Every time a vehicle passes, that triggers motion activation and the cameras take a picture,” said Holly Beilin, the director of communications for Flock Safety. “The lens is very specifically calibrated to capture very clear images of the rear of vehicles and their license plates.”
With this information, the cameras can identify wanted or stolen vehicles from different state or national databases — including the AMBER Alert database and the FBI National Crime Information Center — that pass through the cameras’ surveillance range, Beilin said. If there is a license plate match, the cameras then send a real-time alert to SPD that includes the vehicle’s specific entrance at Destiny USA, the press release read.
The ACLU has pointed to privacy concerns regarding Flock Safety’s technologies, specifically because of the license plate reader’s connections to state and national databases.
While the ACLU said it isn’t opposed to license plate readers being used to notify authorities about AMBER alerts, toll collection or stolen cars, the cameras should not be used to record normal vehicle travel that can be accessed from law enforcement users across the country, the organization wrote in a February blog post. The ACLU also said that such technology must not be overused in low-income areas or communities of color.
“Such a system provides even small-town sheriffs access to a sweeping and powerful mass-surveillance tool, and allows big actors like federal agencies and large urban police departments to access the comings and goings of vehicles in even the smallest of towns,” the post read.
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The cameras do not have a public IP address and the photos are fully encrypted with Amazon Web Services’ Key Management Service-based encryption, Beilin said. The data is stored in AWS’ cloud for 30 days by default and can be accessed by detectives or law enforcement.
“The data will be used only to stop, reduce and investigate crime,” Beilin said. “These are not cameras that record speed. These are not cameras that can be used for anything like parking infractions. These are solely used for crime reduction.”
Matthew Malinowski, the public information officer for SPD, said that the department does not own the data from the cameras and only uses the footage to flag vehicles involved in incidents. Malinowski also said the department has partnered with the mall for many years and is seeking to mitigate safety risks following a history of incidents on the property.
According to SPD records, reported offenses decreased by 40% between 2017 to 2022 as the mall implemented safety measures, which included enforcing Destiny USA’s Parental Escort Policy and having SPD officers on-site during all operational hours. However, reported incidents have gone back up in 2023.
As of June 13, DPS has recorded a total of 707 response calls at Destiny USA in 2023, nearly 200 calls higher than the number from the same time period in both 2021 and 2022. The most commonly reported offenses of 2023 include larceny, burglary, criminal mischief, simple assault and offenses against family, according to SPD data.
Beilin said the new cameras aim to reduce gun violence and organized retail crime, as they provide perimeter security that will stop perpetrators from entering the mall.
“You really want to prevent crime before someone reaches the actual building or the area,” Beilin said. “A lot of crime nowadays is unfortunately committed with firearms or other things like that, so it just gets a lot more dangerous when folks are actually inside.”
Published on September 4, 2023 at 11:24 pm
Contact Kendall: [email protected]
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