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Ramping Up Surveillance, Sheriff Will Have Access to Live Video and Data From 44 Palm Coast Traffic Intersections

| January 30, 2019

palm coast traffic signals have eyes. (© FlaglerLive)

Palm Coast’s traffic signals have eyes. (© FlaglerLive)

The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office is teaming up with Palm Coast government to use live cameras installed at 44 traffic signals as real-time surveillance, tying into the sheriff’s crime-mapping center. The cameras will be recording video footage from the intersections, even though when the system was presented to the council in 2016, city staff assured council members there would be no recording.

The sheriff is ramping up road surveillance with newly installed, real-time license-plate readers and with the city’s traffic-optimization camera system.

The city, for its part, will create what city Construction Manager Carl Cote calls a “small-scale traffic center,” one of them at its public works plant, where city staff can monitor footage from the cameras.

“We’re coordinating pretty closely with the sheriff’s office on this project and others with their fixed license-plate readers,” Interim Manager Beau Falgout said. “My understanding is the sheriff’s office wants this real time, mostly, when they have an incident, to know where that car left from and where it’s going to, so real time is the most important part. Storing it obviously is definitely nice too, to go back, so we’re going to work pretty closely with the sheriff’s office, because our view is typically traffic movement, a wide-angled view.”

Sheriff’s Chief Mark Strobridge initially said the sheriff’s office itself will not be storing the data. “All we’re doing is capturing the data, funneling it through our license plate system, that’s what’s being captured, that’s it, it’s not prolonged analysis,” Strobridge said. In other words, the data is sent to a database in Miami where it is analyzed, with hits on suspect license plates sent back to Flagler. The data is then kept there. “The sheriff’s office is not storing the data,” Strobridge said.

That’s accurate so far as the license plate readers go. But that’s not the case regarding the sheriff’s use of video from traffic signals. Soon after this story published, Strobridge amended his earlier description of the system to say that data from the traffic cameras will be stored locally for 90 days, and will be used independently of the license plate readers. “This data will not travel initially because we don’t have it interfaced,” he said. “We hope to one day have it interfaced.” He said the data from the traffic cameras would be analyzed manually and deleted after 90- days. “That’s why there’s a 90-day limitation on storage, to completely reduce the possibility of abuse.”

So far 31 intersections are connected. A new phase the city council is approving next week will connect 13 more at a cost of $250,000.

There are about 50 signals in the city overall.

“It would be almost all of them. There’s a few we can’t get online because there’s no fiber anywhere near them,” Cote said of the city’s intersections. “We’re also upgrading the software to give the sheriff’s office a feed to the cameras.”

In 2020 the city will connect two more intersections, with some additional phases scheduled in coming years, when wireless technology may be incorporated.

The city administration proposed the traffic-signal system to the council in 2015 as a way to improve traffic efficiency at many intersections. Optimization is not synchronization: though drivers often complain that traffic signals in the city are not synchronized, as they are in many cities, the administration said this approach would not change that. The system is designed to allow traffic monitors to quickly detect issues and where possible address them from desktops instead of having to go to the signal’s location.

When the project was again discussed at the council in 2016, the city’s traffic engineer at the time assured council members that the live cameras “would only be used for monitoring, not for recording whatsoever.”

That’s no longer the case. But the shift is drawing no objections–or questions–from council members, only applause.

The sheriff already has access to installed cameras. “The sheriff’s office needs to position the cameras as they see fit, they’re the experts,” council member Jack Howell said. “They know what they’re looking for, and that’s being accomplished.”

None of the other council members raised questions.

Palm Coast and the Flagler sheriff’s office are far from the exception in using license-plate readers: they’re part of a national trend, and have been used routinely at toll plazas and by private companies that run red-light camera systems. They were in use in Palm Coast for 10 years as part of one such system, at dozens of intersections, and footage from those cameras was often accessed by the sheriff’s office in criminal investigations. Five years ago, when the American Civil Liberties Union was analyzing their use, it sent records requests to 600 state and local police agencies using them. Numbers have multiplied since.

Readers use high-speed cameras to capture photos of every vehicle’s license plate that passes at a given location. Software reads the results and sends a “hit” when the plate is connected to a list of vehicles suspected of having been stolen or otherwise used in a crime. It was a license plate reader that led Flagler deputies to fugitive Michael Moore last Saturday, a man wanted for armed robbery and auto theft in Virginia. He was driving the car he’d stolen days earlier, and was flagged by a reader on Palm Coast Parkway, leading to a long stand-off and his arrest.

“License plate readers would pose few civil liberties risks if they only checked plates against hot lists and these hot lists were implemented soundly,” an ACLU report on the readers concluded. “But these systems are configured to store the photograph, the license plate number, and the date, time, and location where all vehicles are seen — not just the data of vehicles that generate hits. All of this information is being placed into databases, and is sometimes pooled into regional sharing systems. As a result, enormous databases of motorists’ location information are being created. All too frequently, these data are retained permanently and shared widely with few or no restrictions on how they can be used.”

“Taken in the aggregate,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation writes, “ALPR data can paint an intimate portrait of a driver’s life and even chill First Amendment protected activity. ALPR technology can be used to target drivers who visit sensitive places such as health centers, immigration clinics, gun shops, union halls, protests, or centers of religious worship.”

Strobridge, the sheriff’s chief, said those privacy issues should not be a concern anymore than would be law enforcement’s access to an individual’s driving record, since the databases regarding them or license plate readers are regulated and controlled the same way: to access the data, investigators must place requests that include a valid reason and that identify who’s requesting the information. Any mis-use would be a violation and could lead to discipline. The use of the data is monitored by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which oversees and audits the databases.

“This program falls in the same category,” Strobridge said of data recorded from cameras or license plate readers.

The city spent $55,000 to study the system in 2015, and $500,000 to install its first phases, including the cost of extending its own broadband network, called Fibernet, to the signals where necessary. Two years ago the projected annual software maintenance cost was $7,000 to $8,000 a year, not including the sheriff’s cost of storing videos.

Several states are passing legislation to restrict and regulate the use of license plate readers, especially to create limits on how long the data may be retained, or to criminalize the mis-use of readers.

Florida regulates the use of law enforcement databases in general. In 2014 a new law created a public-record exemption for certain images and data collected through license plate readers: personal information is considered confidential, except for law enforcement agencies and, in some cases, the person associated with the data.

41 Responses for “Ramping Up Surveillance, Sheriff Will Have Access to Live Video and Data From 44 Palm Coast Traffic Intersections”

  1. Third Eye says:

    We’re all being “cyber-frisked” whether we’re guilty or not!

  2. Dave says:

    No thank you! These cops have way too much reach into our private personal lives. Now this!? Why dont they just put body cameras on all of us!? This is a huge overstep by the city and sherriff!

  3. SteveO says:

    Ok, but what about public records access and the requirements on storage and destruction of those records? If an attorney wants access to video related to a personal injury crash that occurs at 9ne of these intersections, will the S.O. not provide those records/videos?

  4. Don Appignani says:

    Sounds like more “Big Brother” to me. I don’t like it.

  5. tulip says:

    Sort of sounds like private traffic cameras to me, only this time the city has paid big money, plus more to come and all this to benefit Staly. For those of you who are against traffic cameras—they’re back.

    Supposedly to catch stolen cars? I don’t think there are that many stolen cars driving around PC that would warrant the huge expense. So the sheriff will probably use them to catch people doing other things. Another cost to the city. At least with the cameras before, the city did make some money for roads, etc. Now we will be paying maintenance and storage costs for the cameras as well.

  6. TheTruth says:

    Hopefully, this may stop the speeders in town, as the ones I constantly see running red lights. It seems so obvious why there are so many accidents around here, drivers constantly breaking the law.

  7. Realist says:

    I don’t trust sheriff Staly or the elected officials of Palm Coast. It is getting to be time to sell and head out west.

  8. Rich & Wanda Harnage says:

    If you have nothing to worry about, then you have nothing to worry about. Right? Right!

  9. Mark says:

    Title should read “City Government and County Sheriff applaud as more liberties are taken away!”. Why would OUR representatives be worried about curtailing more of our freedoms. No worries, it won’t be abused, LOL (I have a bridge for sale in NYC, real cheap.). I want to meet the person who invented Fishing Licenses (He needs to smacked upside his noggin with a 2 x 4.). We have a RIGHT to FOOD so the Federal Government should provide it at no cost to ALL of us FREE AMERICANS and illegal immigrants before we get our free HealthCare and free Educations so we don’t end up like Venezuela! We should all be paid (by the Federal Government) what Kapernick would be making if he were warming some NFL team’s bench too!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Brewski says:

    Thatd how a police state starts.

  11. Flagler Resident says:

    Does anybody besides me find this to be a violation of my civil rights? Just think in the near future the sheriff’s department will be able to know your every move. Every time you go to the store, to a bar, to a restaurant, or anyplace you decide to go. The police will be watching. As a law abiding citizen I don’t feel that anyone needs to know my every move. Not even my own family.

  12. The TPG says:

    And then they came for me.

  13. Markingthedays says:

    I don’t have a problem with this. These will come in handy at accident prone intersections.

  14. The original woody says:

    Is that why we have so many damn traffic lights in this city?Sounds like it was a master plan all this time.

  15. blondee says:

    I’m for it and you will be too someday when you experience a hit & run at one of these intersections.

    As far as losing our privacy, we already have. If you’re carrying around a smart phone, it already knows everything we’re doing and everywhere we’ve been.

  16. Yikes says:

    This, from those anti-big-government Republicans. Lol.

  17. FPC Granny says:

    Yup “Big Brother” is all over Palm Coast. Social Sentinel is also located at the Government Building. That program monitors all the kids/adults in and around all the schools here in Flager County through the kid’s computers whether they are at home or at school. Also monitoring everybody’s cell phones in and around the schools. Hum!! How many do their banking online on their cell phones? So who knows what information they are collecting from us all. Social Sentinal says it is a way to monitor kids that may harm the school to prevent school tragedies. This is so unreal and we the taxpayers are paying for them, in essence, to spy on us!! But the city wants to find “creative ways” to build a new Public Works Building. I have a “creative way” were they could get the money (maybe dropping these junk programs would be a darn good start) I see misuse of all this data collection and freedoms amendments tossed to the wayside. SCARY!!

  18. Tim says:

    What a horrible idea. We just recently got rid of red light cameras for multiple reasons. One of which was increased traffic crashes. Citizens of Palm Coast wake up! We need new leadership across the board. If you think for one minute hey won’t use these cameras against you for traffic infractions you are ignorant. I hope this Sheriff sees this and considers what he has said in the past and now contradicting himself. I mean it’s kinda like wearing cowboy boots on a traffic stop. Who are you gonna run down in cowboy boots. This whole county is a joke. And while I’m on this subject Sheriff have you passed a physical agility test, ? What about your command staff have they. I mean Jeeze when is the good ole boy system going to be gone?.z I’m ready to leave this city and never return for the above reasons mentioned alone.

  19. Lou says:

    I am trully amazed at pepole`s comments on this subject.
    Nobody objected when the leaders of Financial Capitalists established the “credit rating system”, The system that rated American citizens according to be able to pay back lenders.
    Now the same people are objecting to keep records of law breakers in order to have a “social rating” of individuals.(red light runners)
    Is there someone out ther to justify the difference?

  20. Hellbound says:

    Florida is already a police state.

  21. Mary Fusco says:

    Blondie, I agree with you 100%. People are funny. I guess they aren’t aware that NOTHING is private on the internet or their precious phones. Anything deleted can and will be retrieved if necessary. If these cameras stop drivers from going through red lights or zooming past stop signs I am all for them. What exactly is the big deal? If you go to the bank, you are on camera, if you go to a gas station, you are on camera, if you pass a toll booth on a highway, your car is on camera. I could go on and on………… LOL If you have nothing to hide, you have no worry.

  22. ENTRAPMENT is how I see it says:

    If the staff deceived us and lied to set up driver’s for penalty then the driver’s were entrapped and the city should be sued! This is not how government is supposed to operated. That is not being transparent. The sheriff needs to spend time fighting crime and doing something about the drugs, stealing etc. and stop with the traffic game. What is the sheriff trying to do get more revenue and get his numbers up so he can increase his budget again?? This sheriff has to go…..2020 can’t come soon enough.

  23. Bhartmann says:

    Great idea, our Sheriff is out there doing what needs to be done. Haven’t done anything wrong, then no need to worry!!! Oh and if you think this bothers you. 95 runs both ways!

  24. anonymous says:

    Maybe the city should just spend the money to do a traffic survey and get the lights synchronized for traffic flow! It’s rediculous trying to get around this town…

  25. Nancy N. says:

    Welcome to 1984, just a few years behind schedule.

    Yes, we do have something to fear even if “we haven’t done something wrong” from this system. This system can be used to track vehicles engaging in political activity. It can be used to conduct blanket surveillance of areas where criminal activity is supected, turning anyone who goes into or out of that area into a suspect for no reason other than proximity. It can even be used to charge innocent people with crimes if a license plate reader misreads a plate. I once got a ticket for blowing through a toll in Orlando when the license plate number that was ticketed was no longer even in use because I had sold the car it had been on.

    And blondee, there’s a big difference between the privacy we give up in our phones and these cameras. Police need a warrant to access our phones, which means to get our data they have to prove there’s probable cause to believe we committed a crime to a judge. These cameras are subject to none of those type of restrictions. Our movements throughout town can be monitored and shared with police with no restriction for whatever reason they deem it of interest. It also raises the possibility that this data could be subpoenaed to be used for civil usage – in lawsuits, even in divorce cases.

    Welcome to the surveillance state! I guess the GOP is only against big government when it isn’t doing their bidding .

  26. Joe daily says:

    Love it and love OUR sheriff!!!

  27. Steadfastandloyal says:

    Big deal. So they read your license plate, all you fear mongers maybe shouldn’t do Facebook all day where your personal info is more susceptible to invasion, not to mention instagram, etc.. Ya got nothin to hide, ya got nothin to lose..

  28. Sherry says:

    Read George Orwell’s 1984 AGAIN and AGAIN. . . . “Big Brother” is knocking at your door in a hundred different ways!

    Facebook, your SMART phone (which many can no longer make a move without), Alexa type devices and SMART televisions that are listening to everything you say, your camera on your computer that watches everything you do. And many of you are just rolling over and inviting him (The GOVERNMENT) in to eventually completely CONTROL YOU!

    It’s NEVER TOO LATE! Start passionately protecting your privacy NOW!

  29. Charlie says:

    Time for some TARGET PRACTICE !!!!!

  30. Alphonse Abonte says:

    Yet the cry goes out for “Big Brother” , anti- government, ACLU, and many more. Started with the internet, spread to cell phones, and “ALEXA”. We wanted tech, but not too much? Too late, It will consume you, dictate your lives and , yes, create paranoia. It is here, live with it or move. Sooner or later it will catch you.

  31. Richard says:

    The entire country of Monaco has cameras placed on every street corner and it’s been that way for years upon years. Lest I remind you that when you are on public property you have given up some of your privacy rights so quit your bitching. If those that are complaining were to be in a serious death related traffic accident guess who would be the first one out searching for ANY video evidence to support your wrongful death lawsuit.

  32. palmcoaster says:

    The system will help our current good sheriff services to protect us (the law abiding citizens) better.

  33. Dave says:

    Florida is a Police state. So sad.

  34. A Concerned Observer says:

    I absolutely love all of this self-righteous rhetoric on “Civil Rights,” a “Police State,” “Big Brother” and the rest. From experience, it is a very different perspective when someone is involved in an automobile accident and whines because there are no video cameras present that would most assuredly prove they were in fact totally in the right and the other obvious liar needs to be held liable. When anyone is a victim of any violence, they immediately look for video of the event and complain vehemently when there is none. When any police officer is trying to do their best to “serve and protect,” you will see countless observers with their cell phones held high over their heads, capturing the event, and more often than not providing whatever portion of the total event proves their own parochial version of the event. Do law enforcement officers have any Civil Rights? The public, in general, berates “snitches” until they are the victim. Suddenly, they loudly exhort anyone who knows something or saw something to come forward to the police. You cannot have it both ways. Only those doing wrong are worried about their civil rights being violated by video cameras capturing their comings and goings. Two applicable quotes from John Wooden, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” and “Consider the rights of others before your own feelings, and the feelings of others before your own rights.” Wouldn’t this world be a better place with these values?

  35. Dave says:

    So according to John Wooden, A man’s character can never be tested since someone is always watching?

  36. Anonymous says:

    This technology is uncomfortable even if u are a law abiding citizen. You are going to be watched constantly and they will know every place you go. You will be watched during your daily routine which is complete bullshit . I just want to say this much , when I was younger I had worked for the FBI in DC for about a little less than a year as a fingerprint tech it was at that time I started to realize a distrust for the system than during my life I worked for three different law-enforcement agencies for a total of 27 years now that I am retired I look back and I say to myself I do not trust the government, looks like we’re going that route here by being constantly watch, if you could move off the grid like some of my fellow retired police officer‘s have told me do it get away from all communication devices Try to limit your exposure to government in anyway you can , for me personally there is no more trust we are being watched no matter where we go and what we do and they are retaining a database permanently do not believe them when they said they are not. I had seen law enforcement agencies lie during my career.

  37. Brian says:

    Honestly all your complaints is because you’ve done something guilty. If you’re not guilty then you wouldn’t have any problems with it I lived in Arizona for six years only got one ticket from a traffic light camera. if everyone would just slow down and take their time at intersections we’d have less accidents. I think this is a good idea cuz if my cars get stolen I’d like to know where they’re at quickly. LoJack is not always the best quality if tracking your vehicle and it takes time on Star is the same way they have to have a warrant in order to find your car if it gets stolen. I think all the above people or below people that want to sit here and complain all the time need to go get a job. all I have to say is guilty guilty guilty if all you want to do is complain.

  38. royalld says:

    Years ago, I thought “Caller ID” was an early step to get us to accept less privacy. Now this step fully reveals the state’s “invisible fence”.

  39. Dave says:

    Yea ok Brian, and when they learn your routes and driving patterns, and try to sell you more on things you drive by more often along the way? Or when they target your childs Intrests from data collected and sold and start poking around your personal buisness? Yes it seems even the innocent are effected by constant surveillance and data collection

  40. bob says:

    This is America, not communist China. Please act like it, FCSO

  41. Jim says:

    “palmcoaster says:
    January 31, 2019 at 8:23 am
    The system will help our current good sheriff services to protect us (the law abiding citizens) better.”

    Just wait till you forget to renew your tag by a day or two; or if you have a tail light out. They will know with these cameras and send a cop after you.

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