TERREBONNE PARISH, La. — When Flock Safety cameras from a neighboring jurisdiction helped Terrebonne Parish investigators solve a double homicide case in 2021, Sheriff Tim Soignet got to thinking.
“It only made sense, like, why don’t we have any here in Terrebonne,” Sheriff Soignet said.
Sheriff Soignet budgeted for those same cameras, which were installed less than a year ago.
“When we first activated them, within ten minutes we got some information that we’d been looking for in reference to stolen vehicles and things like that,” Sheriff Soignet said.
Now, the Terrebonne Parish Council wants to invest in the cameras as well.
“The technology is there. We just need to embrace it,” said Terrebonne Parish Council Chairwoman Jessica Domangue.
Domangue, who represents district five, wants to use about $250,000 from the America Rescue Plan to buy and maintain the cameras. That would cover five years. The parish would pick up expenses after that.
“Crime has kind of increased everywhere especially since the pandemic and the hurricane and so whatever we can do to expedite and solve those crimes I think is really important,” Domangue said.
The Flock Safety cameras can read license plates, track types of cars, identify vehicle damage, and even their color. The information, which according to the company is stored for 30 days, is put into a searchable database for law enforcement agencies across the country.
“It’s only inputting what we’re looking for, like a stolen vehicle, special piece of equipment, things like that, or looking for somebody that just committed a violent act,” Sheriff Soignet said.
Last month Kenner Police used Flock cameras to track a car believed to be involved in a homicide. Within two hours, two suspects were arrested.
“It made solving this particular homicide possible so quickly. Without this we wouldn’t have been able to do it so quickly,” said Detective Nick Engler.
That ease of tracking comes with concern from the ACLU of Louisiana. Advocacy Director Chris Kaiser issued the following statement to Eyewitness News about the Flock cameras.
“We have the constitutional right not to be tracked or spied on by the government with individualized suspicion of wrongdoing. The Flock system threatens that right. It’s not just a series of cameras, but a nationwide network that tracks our everyday movements, stores a comprehensive record of our comings and goings, and makes that database available to any local, state, or federal law enforcement agency across the country. While ordinary license plate readers can be used narrowly to assess toll fees or help locate missing persons, the Flock database is far more intrusive. It is an unregulated mass surveillance system that allows any law enforcement agency to spy on people anywhere Flock’s cameras are in use, with no suspicion of wrongdoing. And each new camera extends this surveillance network’s reach.”
“It’s not writing nobody a ticket,” said Sheriff Soignet.
Sheriff Soginet says the cameras are used for law enforcement purposes only, with justice for victims in mind.
“This technology is speeding that process up. You’re talking about investigations that could take 80 to hundreds of hours of investigations,” said Sheriff Soignet.
This particular technology has been around since 2017 and is already in use by law enforcement agencies in Louisiana. The Terrebonne parish council is set to vote on this in two weeks after a public hearing.
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