Flower Mound Town Council on May 1 decided to exercise caution in moving ahead with a police department plan to install license plate reader cameras in town.

Council approved tabling action on a professional services agreement with Flock Group Inc, which would provide equipment, installation, technical support and software for license plate reader technology at five locations along roadways in town.

Council members expressed concerns about a number of issues—including privacy matters and security, usage, and length of data storage—and desired more information from police on how the local policy would look. The item council considered was originally set for the consent agenda, in which council can approve items without discussion, but during the meeting it was requested to be moved to the regular agenda where council discussion could take place.

Wendell Mitchell, Flower Mound Police Department assistant chief, presented information to council about the technology, explaining he has studied the cameras for about the last decade and how they benefit law enforcement. Flock has cameras in about 2,500 cities across the country, and its mission is to eliminate crime for the whole community, Mitchell said, adding that the company mission is a “lofty goal” and one that is “nearly impossible to achieve,” but the company works toward that mission.

“I believe that kind of aligns with our strategic goals here in town, which is ensuring public safety,” he said. “The public safety of the community is a priority for the town, and it’s paramount to achieve a superior quality of life.”

The council agenda memo stated the police department began reviewing license plate reader systems in 2014 as a technology to improve service level to residents, aid in preventing criminal activity and support investigations. The department continued to follow this technology as it developed and became suitable for broader application, the agenda memo stated, and in 2019 the police department began coordinating a demonstration with the license plate reader system from Flock, including participating in numerous logistics meetings with Flock Safety and networking with surrounding municipalities that use this license plate reader system.

The license plate reader system will have cameras mounted on standalone poles within the town's right of way or on town traffic signal poles, the agenda memo stated. The Flock license plate reader cameras are solar powered with a battery backup and do not interfere with operating other town traffic devices or systems, the memo stated.

Mitchell said the technology identifies the license plate, not the driver, and the technology has been successful for years as an investigative tool. The technology is “proactive” and can provide real-time alerts for wanted or stolen vehicles, Mitchell said. Flock cameras have been used in other nearby cities, including Highland Village. Police desired to move forward with the license plate reader project and evaluate five locations for 60 days as part of a no-obligation trial period, the agenda stated.

Footage owned by the town will never be shared or sold by Flock, and the retention period for the storage is 30 days, and then images are deleted, Mitchell stated, but some council members expressed concerns about retention periods, privacy issues and whether information here could be used elsewhere.

All information acquired by the cameras is stored securely in the Amazon Web Services Cloud, with end-to-end encryption of all data, Mitchell stated.