Jul 16, 2021 - Business

Flock Safety says its car-watching cameras can reduce crime across Tampa Bay

Illustration of a smartphone camera taking a photo of a car, with a police badge for a shutter button.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Atlanta-based Flock Safety, which has a team of employees in Tampa and is hiring more, wants to reduce crime nationwide by 25% in three years.

State of play: That goal might seem extreme, but the upstart company says it typically sees a 25% drop in crime soon after partnering with a city, and it's operating in more than 1,200 nationwide.

  • "It's very rare we don't see a 20% or 30% reduction," CEO Garrett Langley told Axios.
  • The company just announced a $150 million Series D fundraise led by Andreessen Horowitz, one of the world's leading venture capital firms.
  • Worth noting: The company features positive police reviews on its website, but journalists have verified both successes and challenges.

What's happening here: It has partnerships with 50 neighborhoods and five police agencies in the Tampa Bay area, and roughly 250 neighborhoods and 30 police departments across Florida.

How it works: Flock Safety uses cellphone-camera technology to read license plates and capture traffic data. Then they give police the software to narrow and find suspect vehicles.

In other words: Its roadside cameras catalog vehicles — model, color, make and any distinguishing features, as well as the date and time they pass by.

  • If a crime is reported and the victim can describe the vehicle, police can narrow cars down in a few clicks alongside access to an owner's open warrants or criminal history.
  • The cameras also ping law enforcement when a stolen vehicle or a vehicle related to an Amber or Silver Alert crosses their path.

Yes, but: Doesn't that sound like Big Brother? Advances in surveillance tech have prompted debate about privacy, and whether trade-offs are justified in the name of public safety.

  • Langley tells us that the company's products are ethically built and the product actually reduces bias because of its focus on the vehicle, not gender or race.

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