MADISON COUNTY, Ind. — By the end of 2022, there will be nearly 40 license plate reading cameras spread across Madison County.

On Thursday, Anderson Police Chief Michael Lee announced that his department would be installing 21 Flock cameras across the city.

The cameras snap pictures of vehicles as they pass in front of the camera. Law enforcement agencies can then search for a vehicle and see if one of its cameras captured it. The cameras can also alert law enforcement if it snaps a picture of a vehicle officers have been looking for.

“A week doesn’t go by that we don’t take a report of a person possibly suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s that has gotten into a family vehicle and innocently driven away,” said Madison County Sheriff Scott Mellinger said. “These cameras have been fantastic in locating those persons.”

Sheriff Mellinger installed ten cameras across the county two months ago. Those cameras have helped Anderson Police solve some of its cases.

“Those include a road rage incident which involved gunfire,” said Chief Lee. “They’ve located missing persons and also stolen vehicles.”

While their usefulness is well documented, the cameras have given rise to some privacy concerns. However, officials with Flock said the pictures are only stored for 30 days and then automatically deleted.

Company spokesperson Josh Thomas said the cameras also only collect data about the vehicle like the license plate along with the make and model.

“We don’t know who the registered owner of the car is. We don’t know the occupants of the vehicle,” Thomas said. “It’s about focusing on the evidence that really matters for the investigation.”

Chief Lee said there will be parameters in place for his officers when using the system and all searches will be documented.

“They require a specific purpose for the search. It’s not a fishing expedition by any means,” Chief Lee said. “[The cameras] literally capture millions of images. No one is looking at those millions of images unless they have specific law enforcement purpose to do so.”

Chief Lee and Sheriff Mellinger said they collaborated on where to place the cameras to get the widest area of coverage. Mellinger said most are placed on main thoroughfares and in high crime areas.

Flock says its cameras are being used by more than 100 law enforcement agencies across the state. IMPD and several other departments in the Indy metro area have employed them as well.

Sheriff Mellinger says it’s not a foolproof system, but it is a game changer.

“While law enforcement has changed in a lot of positive ways in a lot of negative ways, this is one of the most exciting things to me that’s come along in decades,” Sheriff Mellinger said.

The Pendleton Police Department will be adding four cameras in its jurisdiction. The Town of Ingalls will be adding two cameras. Chesterfield Police will be observing before deciding whether or not to invest in the technology.