MARIETTA — A proposal to install cameras and license plate readers at a dozen Cobb County parks could stall Tuesday after one commissioner’s concerns over the use of the data captured by the devices.
The $168,000 proposal with Atlanta-based Flock Safety would include two cameras installed at the main entrance at each chosen park and be paid for out of 2016 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax revenues earmarked for park improvements.
The selected parks, chosen with the help of 911 call reports at each facility according to Parks Department Director Jimmy Gisi, were Fair Oaks, Lost Mountain and Oregon parks in District 1 or northwest Cobb; East Cobb, Fullers and Terrell Mill parks in District 2 or east and southeast Cobb; Skip Wells Park in District 3 or northeast Cobb; while District 4 or southwest Cobb recipients would be Wallace Park, Hurt Road Park, South Cobb Campus, Tramore Park (north side) and Wild Horse Creek Park.
“We hope in the future to be able to add more — we’ll just see how these go in and how it works,” Gisi said. “Cobb Police Department already has several (license plate readers) out that they utilize. We’re actually getting in this business because of the recommendation of public safety. It’s an easy way to track people who are doing mischief in parks, or anywhere.”
Cobb Public Safety Director Mike Register said 32 to 34 subdivisions in the county have license plate readers on their own, but those readers do not alert police to people coming in and out of the neighborhoods. The county’s cameras in the park, however, would provide more immediate feedback to law enforcement.
“In the parks, there is going to be an alert to the police department, so if there is a car that is stolen, maybe a carjacking, or if there a person connected with that car that has been in criminal activity and wanted or there’s a lookout, then it would alert us and we would respond,” Register said. “It’s just another way of helping us deter and stop crime before it happens.”
But Commissioner Bob Ott during Monday’s commission agenda prep meeting said the plate readers constitute an “invasion of privacy,” saying he could not support the proposal as written, requesting language to prevent non-law-enforcement personnel from viewing the data.
“What’s different is when it’s mounted on a police vehicle, if they pass the vehicle that’s on the list, they’re immediately alerted to that vehicle, and when these police vehicles come back to the precinct, the data (that was taken) is put into the system,” Ott said. “My concern is simply that this agenda item is a parks item, it’s not a police item, and I just want the same citizen protections and safeguards that this board approved before to be a part of this agenda item, and it’s not there.”
Gisi said the language Ott was requesting “could be something as simple as ‘Parks staff will not have access to it — only Public Safety would have access to the data,’” but Register told Ott that he would work with Gisi and other parks staff to update the proposal. It remains to be seen if the matter remains on the agenda for Tuesday’s commission meeting, which is set for 9 a.m. in the Cobb Government Building.