APACHE JUNCTION — The City Council has authorized the Apache Junction Police Department to install up to 15 public safety cameras around town that will snap photos of vehicle license plates and issue alerts if the car has been stolen or is wanted in connection with a crime.
On May 3, the council voted to enter into an agreement with Flock LLC for the implementation of an Automated License Plate Reader technology program, but not without concern expressed by some council members.
“I’m not a fan,” Councilman Robert Schroeder said during a work session on the subject May 2.
Schroeder thought the contract for the program was too open-ended, putting the city in a situation of paying for extra insurance, power to the cameras and the cost of moving the cameras.
According to city documents, the initial term is a two-year agreement not to exceed $80,350, with year one funded by an Arizona State Vehicle Theft Task Force grant of $15,000 and $27,800 out of the General Fund.
Schroeder also said while the cameras will only take snapshots of the vehicles, they will still capture other images around the area such as people walking.
“I feel there is a fine line between being the city’s police and policing the city,” he said.
Vice Mayor Christa Rizzi also expressed concern with the program but felt the use of such crime-fighting technology is a sign of the times.
“Putting up police cameras can cause angst in a community,” she said. “Personally I don’t like cameras. But in this day and age, we have to give our law enforcement agency as many tools as possible to keep our people safe.”
Rizzi voted in favor of the program while Schroeder was the only council member to vote against it.
Police Chief Michael Pooley said the cameras are solar powered, so any power costs are minimal. He also said data collected from the cameras will only be license plates and will only be accessed by police in investigations. They will not be used for traffic enforcement.
Apache Junction will be the first Pinal County agency to use the system, but Pooley said Tempe, Mesa and other Valley police departments, as well as 1,500 agencies across the country, use it.
Flock, established in 2017, began providing services to homeowners associations and businesses. Pooley said private companies use the system to scan license plates in mall parking lots to locate vehicles earmarked for repossession.
The cameras will be strategically placed around ingress and egress points of the city as well as higher crime areas. Pooley said the Walmart parking lot will be one location for multiple cameras. The cameras’ core function is to capture license plate numbers and other vehicle features by taking photos of the rear of a vehicle only. The cameras do not capture photos of people or faces within the vehicle.
Pooley said all the images are automatically purged every 30 days unless saved by the department.
On May 1, the night before the council discussed the issue, a woman was shot and killed along an Apache Junction roadway. Pooley said had the camera system been in place, police may have caught the suspect earlier.
A 34-year-old Phoenix-area man was arrested May 5 in Los Angeles in that shooting. AJPD said he will be held in the death of Maria Guadalupe Godinez Ramirez, who was fatally shot near Old West Highway and Colt Road. Officers found Ramirez in her car after she called 911. She was taken to a hospital, where she died of her injuries.
The suspect, Ulises A. Cruz Peraza, was apprehended without incident. The investigation continues and any witnesses or those with information about the case are asked to call Apache Junction Police at 480-982-8260.