POLAND TWP., Ohio (WKBN) — Some new technology is being added outside the Poland Schools. Half a dozen solar-powered cameras have been installed that can capture license plate images of vehicles pulling in and out of school parking lots.
“We don’t have gates, we don’t have guard houses, we don’t have police outside — most of our security is inside the school,” said Craig Hockenberry, Poland Schools superintendent. “So this gives us an opportunity to strengthen our perimeter.”
The cameras will send images to the township police department identifying the vehicles in less than seven seconds.
“They’re able to take a picture of the rear of the car and it’ll give you the color of the vehicle, the make and model of the vehicle, as well as the license plate,” said Poland Township police Chief Greg Wilson.
Although the school district used federal grant money to buy these cameras, Poland Township is waiting to hear on its own grant request to buy additional cameras to spread around the community.
Several other communities already have the cameras made by Flock Safety. Canfield has six of them, and police say they helped solve several recent burglaries.
“We had a vehicle description and a rough time frame, and we were able to locate the vehicle entering and exiting the city,” said Det. Josh Wells with Canfield Police Department.
But there are concerns: lobbyists with the American Civil Liberties Unit (ACLU) of Ohio are particularly uncomfortable with the growing use of the cameras.
Chief lobbyist Gary Daniels of the ACLU of Ohio says while there are currently no state laws in place to govern how the cameras are used, “I don’t know that there are any regulations or laws that can be put into place that’s going to make us, you know, satisfy our comfort level on this.”
He says there are three main areas of concern with the cameras:
- What is the technology being used for and what is it explicitly not to be used for?
- What data from the cameras is retained? Why is it to be kept, and for how long?
- Who has access to the camera data, and how do they have access to that?
For their part, the superintendent and police say the cameras are aimed at recording license plates only — not people’s faces.
Hockenberry says the district already has cameras operating inside all the buildings, as well as on all its buses. He says while he understands there will be those opposed to the cameras, “It’s definitely worth it to us” to have an extra layer of security around the buildings.