ALEXANDER COUNTY, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – Law enforcement agencies across the Carolinas have a new crime-fighting tool that has proven successful.

Special cameras are being installed that can read license plates, allowing for a clearer picture of cars involved in a crime.

The new cameras come from Flock Safety and allow for Automated License Plate Reading (ALPR). Investigators say about 90% of property crimes go unsolved. They credit these cameras with not only providing better evidence in court, but also leading officers to a suspect faster.

Cameras can be found in most neighborhoods across the Carolinas. It could be on a doorbell, a security camera or a traffic camera. However, the cameras from Flock Safety aren’t looking necessarily for people.

“So our technology focuses on cars and license plates and that way if there is an incident police can get the information they need and go and solve a crime, with the license plate details,” said Josh Thomas from Flock Safety.

Deputies at the Alexander County Sheriff’s Department said the Flock Safety license plate reader hit on a stolen car last month. Investigators say three suspects were found in the stolen car and they now all face various charges.

In Union County, the sheriff’s office doesn’t own any Flock cameras, but local neighborhood associations do and they allow them to be used by the sheriff’s office.

“We have recovered numerous stolen vehicles and we have been able to identify suspects in drive by shootings,” said Lt. James Maye from the Union County Sheriff’s Office.

Maye said response times to property crimes are now faster. When a license plate camera gets a hit in Union County, a designated investigator is notified. That person then dispatches deputies to the area within minutes.

“We can figure out where that deputy needs to be and basically put resources in the right place to stop crime in our area,” Maye said.

The cameras collect data from all vehicles, not just those that are stolen or involved in a crime. To protect the privacy of the public, Flock Safety leaders said the data is permanently deleted from the system every 30 days.

“There are not a lot of laws on the books that tell you how long this data needs to be retained so we went really conservatively,” Thomas said.

Flock Safety leaders also said of the about 150 customers they have in North Carolina, 100 of them are local neighborhood HOAs.

The cameras cost between $1900 and $2500 a year, but are maintained regularly by Flock Safety workers.