Fulton Housing Authority’s director hopes a new license plate scanner will enhance safety in the city’s public housing.
“What we’ve always wanted to do is just make sure our tenants are safe and secure, and that everyone who comes onto the property,” Director Chris Garrett said Thursday. “We want to make sure folks who are coming on property are here to be (good) visitors and not causing problems.”
The new $800 scanner went up late last week on Sycamore Street, the private road where the FHA office and several housing units are located, and has been turned on. Garrett said the location was chosen because it isn’t a public road and it has only one entrance and exit. That means vehicles’ license plates will be photographed both coming and going.
“So, if any problems do arise, we’ll be able to tell who the problems are,” Garrett said.
As with most security cameras — such as the ones already present on FHA property — the images captured by the scanner will be saved to a “secure DVR,” which has limited storage. It can hold somewhere around 1,100-1,200 images. As the storage is filled, old images will be automatically deleted, Garrett said.
That means it’s hard to say how long each individual scan will be stored, he added. More traffic means a shorter storage time.
“We might have one vehicle come through eight times, in and out, so that’s 16 photographs of one vehicle in one day,” he explained. “It could be 30 days, it could be 90 days.”
But the scanner also has the ability to compare license plates against a list input by the FHA.
“The purpose of this is, we do have folks we’ve put on a trespass list and who are not allowed to be on property of Fulton housing,” Garrett said. “There’s software that goes with the camera … if (a license plate from the list) gets read, it sends an email to notify us that that license plate has been detected.”
He clarified the FHA does not currently have a list of license plates associated with people on the trespass list.
“We had no reason to do that,” Garrett said.
Fulton Police Chief Steve Myers said he and Garrett are still working out what, if any, information from the scanner will be sent to the FHA.
“If police requested information, we’d be able to get that information to them, just like we already do with security footage from external cameras,” Garrett said.
The Fulton Police Department already provides extra patrols on FHA property and helps enforce the trespass list through a policing contract, which gets renewed annually and has been in place for decades, Myers said.
Garrett said residents of FHA housing were not notified that the sign reader was being installed.
“We’re required to provide that safe, secure and sanitary housing,” he said. “It’s just something we thought might be good to add. We’re at a point where we needed to upgrade the security systems.”