MADISON, S.D. (KELO) — For several months now, the city of Madison has used cameras that can read license plates of passing cars. They can detect stolen cars, help locate people with warrants and more.
Drive around Madison and you’ll see the Flock automated license plate readers all over town — a first of its kind in South Dakota.
Back in August after being in operation for only a short time, the cameras flagged two stolen vehicles which led to back-to-back arrests.
The license plate readers have been installed for about nine months, and they’ve proved their worth in catching crime in the community.
“We’re up to four stolen vehicles that we recovered. We average approximately 10 to 15 searches a month. We’ve assisted a number of other agencies that have called and requested assistance. We use them to solve burglaries, retail thefts, hit and run accidents,” Madison Police Chief Justin Meyer said.
If a license plate is flagged, the cameras notify police of the location and which direction that car is going. Meyer says they recently helped catch a suspect after a theft took place at a local business.
“We had the time of day, the make and model, description of the vehicle, we went into the system, and within five minutes, we were able to pull that plate up. And from that license plate, we were able to determine who the owner is,” Meyer said.
They matched a social media photo of the suspect with the surveillance video from the business as well.
“We solved the case in five minutes that normally we probably wouldn’t have been able to solve,” Meyer said.
City commissioner Adam Shaw says the cameras are a good investment for safety in the community.
“The reason we put them in was to deter crime, and I feel like, as a commissioner, that was a great investment for the community. I do know, in my conversations with Chief Meyer, they’ve come to use a few times and it’s been well worth it,” Shaw said.
“They are proven assets at this point in time, and I don’t know that we could go back to running without them,” Meyer said.
Meyer says the cameras are not used for speed enforcement and only take photos of the backs of vehicles.
There are 25 installed currently to figure out the best places for them, but eventually they will have permanent locations for just 10 cameras.