You've likely seen online or heard in the news over the past couple of weeks that the Evansville Police Department recently installed a number of traffic cameras at intersections across the city. You've probably also heard the Department is not releasing the exact locations of those cameras. Officer Taylor Merriss with the Department stopped by the studio Tuesday morning to explain the reason behind the secrecy along with how the cameras, manufactured by Flock Safety, have already helped officers solve a number of crimes since they were installed.

Take a listen to our complete interview below, or scroll down to read the transcript.

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Evansville Police Officer Taylor Merriss Explains the Secrecy Behind the New Intersection Cameras

Ryan: Let's talk about these cameras that you guys have installed in certain intersections across the tristate but aren't revealing the exact locations for them. And, I know there's been some stories put out there about reasons, and why you guys won't say well, they're at this location, this location, so why don't you explain why these...I mean how...how difficult are they to spot if I'm just driving down the road, would I be able to see them? I don't know how big they are.

Taylor: Yeah, you would be able to see them. I mean it's not like we've tucked them away and hid them from everybody.

Well, yeah, 'cause they gotta be able to see the road.

Right, yeah, and the reason that we don't want to disclose where these Flock cameras are is because we don't want them to be vandalized and we don't want people that are committing crimes...for instance, driving around in [a] stolen vehicle, having a stolen license plate on your car, we don't want them to take alternate routes around so we can't figure out where they're at. For example, yesterday, I was in my office and I heard some guys talking about a stolen U-Haul truck and they're like, well we just saw it go past this street on the Flock camera because we can get alerts if a stolen vehicle goes past one of these cameras. We'll get an alert, and so they were tracking it through this system to try and locate the U-Haul truck. So that's just an example, like yesterday, how we utilized it.

And well, you had another example too, it was a week or two ago where you guys assisted with another county. Was it an Indiana County, Illinois?

Yeah, it was in and adjacent county actually yeah, but even yeah.

Adjacent county, OK

But,

Stolen vehicle

Yep. But to go back to your question, even if it's a stolen vehicle from let's say, Maine. We would still get an alert on it, because it's, yeah, it's in the national database.

OK, so this is like a national, it's all tied together.

Yeah, yeah. But yesterday I was in my office, I came to work a little early, not yesterday, last week, I was in my office and I came to work a little early and I heard an auto theft detective get on the radio and say, “Hey, I found a stolen vehicle. It's parked, unoccupied. Go ahead and start Tri-State, which is the towing company that we use, and I kind of listened more, and then I was like, “Oh well, that's, I just saw that car on the block camera,” and then I continued to get the alert and I'm like, well, that's weird, I know he just towed it. Well, it was on the back of the tow truck still picking up on the cameras.

Also still picking up the...

Yeah, because it wasn't out of the national database yet.

So, the good news is that the cameras work.

Yeah.

Evansville Police Department via Facebook
Evansville Police Department via Facebook
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That's the thing, but they're not meant to be...It's not necessarily to catch speeding.

Or no, they don't track speed at all.

What is the main point is really just for any kind of...maybe there's been a crime committed? You've got the license plate number and you're tracking where that person is going so you can send officers to try to intercept them, right?

Yeah, so yeah, so let's say that there's a stolen vehicle, a stolen license plate. We have used it for, let's say there were shots fired in a certain location, we can check that camera and see what license plates went through that intersection at the approximate time to see if those vehicles were in involved. It's legitimately just a license plate reader. It doesn't read anything else except for license plates, and then whatever is attached to the national database is what comes back to that license plate.

Leslie: I just wondered too as you were talking about, like stolen vehicles. But, let's say that there's an Amber Alert, so that is also a way to be able to track to find a missing child.

Taylor: Well, yeah, and we have done that and that's something that we had a run maybe three weeks ago. It seems like every week we have utilized these in a pretty important role. About three weeks ago, there was a kid that went missing or somebody had taken this child from a home and we knew what the offender had arrived in. So, we checked the cameras around the approximate time that he would have left that apartment building and found an image, a clear image of him with the child on the back of this motorcycle and we were able to determine what the license plate was, the address that was listed to that license plate, and we're able to locate that child in that mail, like within an hour.

Ryan: Oh wow, that's impressive.

So we're fortunate to have these.

Yes, sounds like it.

Yeah and um, my Sargent, Anna Grey, she's done numerous stories on these and she has all the statistics but it's well over 100, maybe even 200 cases that we have utilized these Flock cameras in already.

Wow, and they've not been up that long have they?

We had six that were up originally just to test out, and then we ended up getting a grant for more, so we've had the six up prior to the bulk of them. I think we have 52 now.

Wow!

Yeah, there's a lot.

Very cool. Alright, well that is Taylor Morris from the Evansville Police Department. Always good to see you, we could talk forever, but I know you've got other things to do so we'll see you next week.

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