For Immediate Release
Elmira, New York, January 24, 2022: The Libertarian Party of Chemung County (LPCC) comments on the installation of Flock Safety Cameras in the City of Elmira.
You may have noticed Flock Safety Cameras being installed around our fair city. 50 of them are going in at an installation cost of at least $17,500 with a subscription plan of $125,000 per year. The cost is reportedly being covered by federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act, which was passed in 2021. We are to assume that when that money runs out, the city will just add this expense to the budget at which point, the cost is paid through taxes. With an elected city council of only 6 members plus Mayor Dan Mandell as Chairman, it would stand to reason that the seven of them could come up with a plan to spend Elmira’s over $28 million share. There was a separate committee convened that included the Mayor, Deputy Mayor Joe Duffy, former Councilman Brett Stermer, and 3 unelected city officials (City Manager Mike Collins, Chamberlain Charmain Cattan, and Community Development Director Emma Moran). The process of spending that money should have been more transparent, giving the public a say in the individual line items for expenditures; especially ones that impact people’s privacy.
Flock promotes their products as a way to reduce crime. The cameras have the ability to collect data from license plates and other distinguishing vehicle characteristics. This information is sent to law enforcement in seconds. There is little empirical evidence that they accomplish what they set out to. “While we agree violent crime is awful, putting citizens under constant surveillance goes against what our country was founded on,” LPCC Chairman Craig Colwell says. “We are the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, not the land of the safe and home of the scared.”
Cities and private neighborhoods around the country are adopting this technology, and the cameras aren’t only connected to the city’s network. Through Flock’s Talon Program, they are linked all over the country, creating a mass surveillance state. If implemented honestly and administered responsibly, this technology may aid police in apprehending people involved in crimes. However, it could also result in more negative interactions with law enforcement due to only using vehicle data, not necessarily targeting who was driving the car. The cameras have already led to many mistaken identity cases in other communities around the country as well as harassment and detainment of many innocent people, including the black and brown population.
Since this is now a reality in Elmira, NY, we ask, who is overseeing this program? Who is making sure it’s not abused? Councilman Nicholas Grasso said, “I’m a firm believer in and supporter of law enforcement. I believe in providing them with the tools they need to efficiently and effectively do their jobs; especially the ones that enable them to safely go home to their families at the end of their shifts while making our communities safe places to live, work, and play. As the saying goes, With great power comes great responsibility. We need to ensure the proper constraints and oversight are in place so this power is not used inappropriately.”
The people of Elmira and Chemung County deserve the assurance that this is being implemented with transparency and accountability. This will be discussed at the City Council Workshop this Thursday at 10:30 am at the City Hall’s third-floor Law Library and is open to the public. The Libertarian Party of Chemung County encourages all to attend.