Richmond police chief says new license plate reader cameras are effective

Richmond to exponentially increase number of public safety cameras in city
Photo credit: Flock Safety

Richmond police Chief Bisa French said 26 newly-installed license plate reader cameras are already proving to be effective, and she hopes many more can be installed to cover crime hot spots and all entry and exit points in the city.

Chief French delivered an update on the Flock Safety cameras, which doesn’t record people, but rather the license plates of passing vehicles. The system alerts police in cases when a license plate signals that the vehicle was reported stolen or involved in a crime.

The Richmond City Council approved installing 30 cameras back in February. Since April, 26 have been installed at 16 city hot spots, and the final four will be installed in the coming weeks, Chief French said.

“We’ve already had a lot of success with the system,” the police chief said.

In roughly a month since the cameras have been operating, the RPD is getting more hits from the system than they can respond to, French said. In one case, the cameras helped locate and return a wheelchair accessible van to its rightful owner. In other incidents, the system alerted police to a carjacked vehicle, and to a vehicle suspected in sideshow activity out of Livermore.

Chief French said the system could help deter a high rate of stolen vehicles in the city. Just this month alone, 115 had been stolen, the chief told Council on Tuesday. 

The 30 cameras approved by Council in February was all the RPD could afford from its budget, but Chief French hopes many more cameras will be installed in the city. She noted how the City of San Pablo “has close to 100 cameras in their city, at every single entry and exit point in their city,” which she says is helpful not just to the San Pablo Police Department, but also to the RPD.

Given it’s been just one month since the rollout of the system, Councilmember Doria Robinson recommended further study on the system’s effectiveness. Chief French agreed to report on the system’s progress after the first quarter of the fiscal year.