June 21, 2024 at 2:08 p.m.

Sheriff gets county board to authorize plate readers


By DENISE MARTIN | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment
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A fugitive female from Illinois, traveling with minor kids that she was not supposed to have custody of, was located and apprehended in Chisago County just last week,  thanks to a Wisconsin license plate reading device detecting her sought-after vehicle being driven into Taylors Falls.  St. Croix Falls authorities contacted local squads and the swift arrest avoided any number of bad outcomes.

An agency that has license plate reading capability in the Twin Cities metro area recorded a plate number, tied to a subject Chisago County was looking for.  By the end of the day the local investigators had the suspect in custody.    In a case like this, savings of hours and resources is immeasurable. 

These are just two of hundreds of actions described for county commissioners by Sheriff Brandon Thyen,  while asking the County Board for authorization to use county road right-of-way to place “Flock” brand license plate readers/recorders.

Flock installs and services the outdoor, internet connected cameras with the capacity to record every vehicle plate, color, model, etc. and scans the information through federal and state databases to see if there’s a match.  Each camera is about $3,500 a year as a “subscription” fee.

Thyen explained the plan is to begin identifying roadside sites to most effectively place the cameras, implementing the program in concert with municipal police needs.  All the county’s three police departments are interested in the new technology, Thyen stated.  What the sheriff needed to know was;  would the county commissioners have any objections to bringing the county engineer in on actively pursuing the planning?  

County Engineer Joe Triplett stated he is agreeable to being involved and “I am quite sure we can work it out.”

All five county elected officials approved pursuing the Flock proposal, but in  discussion, Commissioner Ben Montzka expressed protections for privacy rights and needing strict guidelines on data retention.  

Commissioner Dan Dahlberg mentioned his concern is with potential to abuse the system.  Can the policy protect against randomly tracking a known repeat traffic offender, he wondered.  Dahlberg declared, “I have a little heartburn” over this but basically he supports the cameras’ value as an investigative tool.

The current laws require an “audit” of the use of the devices and analysis of how policy was followed.  Any data withdrawn needs to be related to a case number, and documented, etc.

The camera policy needs to be drafted and just like body worn camera and drone deployment policies, this too will require public comment and input.

As for funding it depends on how many locations are prioritized and how quickly the devices can be deployed and made functional.  

While the item may end up being part of next year’s budget, commissioners were open to looking deeper into this current budget if necessary.  For instance, there are ARPA dollars remaining and only 202 days left in the window to have the covid-related recovery monies allocated.

Sheriff Thyen, however, was also promised by the county commissioners that ARPA money can be earmarked for the K-9 program immediately.

Chisago is down two trained dogs due to unforeseen circumstances (a fire fatality and a terminal illness). A third K-9 is slated for retirement soon with nine years in the unit.  Coda, the newest dog, is close to finishing training and “graduates” in just a week or so, according to the sheriff.

The county has about $426,000 undesignated in the ARPA balance.

The sheriff said the  department needs $37,000 or thereabouts to acquire two animals this fall, their associated equipment and early training included.  A price increase is expected after this fall.


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