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Castle Rock neighborhood debates merits and skepticism around license plate readers

license plate reader castle rock.jpg
Posted at 9:46 AM, Aug 24, 2021

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. — A neighborhood homeowner's association is considering taking a new approach to an increase in crime in Castle Rock, which has sparked debate in the community.

Karen Kirkpatrick has lived in the Meadows neighborhoods for two decades. She says the community is quiet and safe, but as neighborhoods expand and traffic increases, so do safety concerns.

"It is a great neighborhood. It's definitely a great place to raise kids," Kirkpatrick said. "But it was a small town feeling when I first moved here, and it has grown."

The Meadows Community Association, an HOA in Castle Rock, is considering a contract with a company called Flock Safety to provide license plate readers in the community. The cameras scan license plates along with car make and color, and each identification marker can be used by law enforcement to track cars used for criminal activity in the neighborhood.

The company explains on its website that "customers own 100% of the data and footage collected through our cameras," meaning the customer retains full control over the video captured. Also, the footage is stored on the cloud in an encrypted system, and it is destroyed after 30 days.

Police departments will have access to the database in an agreement with the HOA and only for searches that are approved by the neighborhood.

However, some say the technology is overkill for a community that they believe has not seen an increase in crime warranting the cameras. Posts online call the technology 'big brother' and 'an invasion of privacy.'

Kirkpatrick agrees.

"We all start out with good intentions, but sometimes that's not where it ends up at the end," she said. "There is that balance of the privacy versus what they're trying to collect."

Advocates for the program say the program will be canceled if the program is abused. They also say the contract is for safety of residents, such as crime reduction, not a means of enforcing traffic compliance.

Kirkpatrick also wonders how the HOA plans to pay for the license plate readers and if it'll come out of homeowners' pockets. Denver7 reached out to The Meadows Community Association, but it did not respond.

A meeting to discuss the issue is set for September.