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Warner Robins Police Department to place license plate-reading cameras around city to reduce crime

The goal is to use grant-funded technology to reduce and prevent crime.

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — Warner Robins police will soon be able to take photographs of your license plate with several new roadside cameras.

Warner Robins is officially a "smart community." 

This means the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation chose the city for a "Digital Twin Project."

The goal is to use grant-funded technology to reduce and prevent crime.

For some Warner Robins people, public safety remains a top concern.

"It has been frustrating in the past when we don't have the leads to follow up on to solve crimes and get the bad guys arrested," Warner Robins Lieutenant Eric Gossman said.

Gossman says researchers from Georgia Tech created a digital version of the city.

That "Digital Twin" will soon help them decide where to strategically place 10 Flock license plate-reading cameras.

"We will be moving them around to the 10 most-identified areas that crime is predicted to occur. Details aren't always easy to get from the victims or witness. They might be able to tell us there was a black SUV, but that might be the only thing they can tell us. If we had a crime occur at 6:00, we could go and search 1 hour either side and look for black SUVs in that close proximity," Gossman said.

Mayor LaRhonda Patrick calls the technology "a great accomplishment overall." 

"This technology is a force multiplier for our police department. There is a shortage of police officers across our country and Warner Robins is not exempt from that. We have our struggles just like everybody else. Cities larger than us face the same challenges, as do smaller cities, so knowing we have this force multiplier in our city just brings me great joy, to know that our crime will decrease with this technology in spite of vacancies," Patrick said.

The cameras will be running 24/7.

He says they will be taking only pictures, not video, of license plates.

Gossman says right now, they're looking to place them at Booth Road, Davis, and the Highway 96 area.

"In past trends that we have had in the City of Warner Robins, the bad guys that are doing the violent crimes are the same bad guys. They're not just committing one, they're committing multiple crimes, so if we can stop them after the first one, hopefully, we can prevent someone else from getting hurt or killed," Gossman said.

"We are thrilled to know we can provide this proactive crime prevention without using our taxpayers' dollars. Everyone wants to decrease our crime and this is a major leap in that direction," Patrick said.

Gossman says the cameras are black and the size of a 2-liter bottle.

He says they'll eventually move every camera to a different spot each week, once they figure out their algorithm.

The city will only have access to that picture for 30-days.

"Nobody is watching it 24/7. It is only storing the single picture. It's not a video camera. It doesn't keep data beyond 30 days. We don't store it. The company that has it, gets rid of it, so we can't go back and pull it back up. It's not Big Brother watching 24/7," Gossman said.

Gossman says one camera costs $3,000 and they have $50,000 in grant money.

"Shot spotters triangulate sound. This is more passive than that. That is an active tool. This is passive. If a vehicle goes by this camera, it will take a picture of it and it will zero in on the tag also and give us a clearer picture of the tag so that the detectives can go do more follow-up and see if there is a relationship," Gossman said.

They've already ordered the cameras.

They start installing them sometime next month.

The Development Authority of Houston County spearheaded this project.

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