Marietta CID extends use of license plate cameras; officials cite crime reduction

Marietta Daily Journal, March 5, 2021

By: Shannon Ballew

If you drive through Marietta and other parts of Cobb County, your license plate may be being watched.

On public streets in Marietta and other parts of Cobb County, license plates are being read using technology that will tip off police if the plate is connected to a stolen car, or to a person with an outstanding arrest warrant.

The Gateway Marietta Community Improvement District has extended its contract with Flock Safety to use four cameras in the Franklin Gateway area through 2023.

The CID first installed the cameras in early 2019, and they say the cameras have been successful in stopping crime.

Marietta Police Maj. John King told the CID that the cameras are the four top-performing cameras within the city. They average 44 hits per month and have an 80% capture rate. The cameras have led to lower crime on Franklin Gateway, and have helped recover over $100,000 of property, he said.

“GMCID has ambitions to make our neighborhood the best place to live, work and play in Cobb. This contract extension will continue our partnership between business and the local police in keeping our community safe and encourage more investment and growth in our neighborhood,” Caroline Whaley, executive director for Gateway Marietta CID, said in a statement.

There are 39 license plate reader cameras in Marietta — 17 are privately owned, and the city has 22, according to Marietta City Manager Bill Bruton.

Cobb County has 43 license plate cameras, including six in police patrol cars, Officer Shenise Barner said.

Late last year, Marietta’s cameras triggered 207 alerts in a 30-day period, the MDJ previously reported. Police report the cameras have allowed them to recover stolen vehicles, nab two Florida fugitives wanted on attempted murder charges, and confiscate drugs, cash and weapons. In one case, the Marietta police reported: “Based on interviews and phone messages, the investigation determined the suspects were in Marietta to commit armed robberies with the stolen gun they possessed.”

Former Marietta Councilman Johnny Sinclair, who has publicly criticized similar technology, said people should be aware of the cameras.

“I just think people need to know that the government can take a picture of your license tag at any time,” he said.

Councilman Joseph Goldstein, who represents the Franklin Gateway area, agreed that the cameras have helped the area’s crime rate.

“The cameras have helped catch individuals who have previously committed crimes and have helped keep the community safer. It has been one of the tools that has helped bring down crime in the area,” he said in an email.

On whether he had any privacy concerns about the cameras, Goldstein said: “The cameras within the CID are in the Public Right of Way where there is not an expectation of privacy.”