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License plate cameras coming to Shafter

If you have wondered what those black poles going up around Shafter are, they are the newest aid in keeping the city of Shafter safe. The city has purchased 25 Flock Cameras to put up around town, placed in strategic locations throughout the city.

The cameras are license plate readers, catching on record every vehicle that passes. The readers use technology that will aid the Shafter Police Department in responding to crimes committed in the city by reading the plate and notifying the officers if the vehicle is stolen. The system updates every two hours, keeping the information current and viable.

Mayor Pro-Tem Cathy Prout said, "The cameras are not cheap, but they will be well worth it in the long run." The system not only reads the plates and records them, the officers can also use the system to monitor any city that has the system if needed. "There are 37 jurisdictions that utilize the Flock Camera system, including Wasco, McFarland, Delano and Bakersfield," said Acting Chief Randy Milligan.

Milligan said that if the police need to check if a vehicle had been in a neighboring city, they can go into the system and view those other cities. There have only been a few of the cameras put up so far in the city, but, according to Milligan, they are already paying dividends. "We are already seeing the benefit of the cameras," said Milligan.

Prout was right when she said that the cameras are not cheap. Each camera carries a price tag of $90,000. That makes the purchase price for the city of Shafter $2.25 million. There is also an annual maintenance fee for the system, which is $75,000 for the city, based on the number of cameras that they have. But, as Prout commented, the department would spend a lot of money to have officers dedicated to patrolling the areas that the cameras would be covering, making the move a prudent one even with the hefty price tag.

According to Prout, the cameras are hypersensitive to the numbers on the plate, making it possible to catch the number clearly even if the vehicle is traveling at high speed.


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