Will Lexington’s Flock cameras be used to police the homeless or track women leaving state? | Opinion

On Thursday, the Lexington Fayette Urban County Council will vote on whether or not to extend the contract for Flock cameras, an automated license plate reading system of 100 cameras that were first placed in Lexington for trial in 2021. Though there are many reasons to slow down this process and look more deeply into the efficacy of these cameras, one of my greatest concerns is how many laws have changed since these cameras were first introduced three years ago, laws that make more people illegal in Kentucky and across the United States.

Since 2021, healthcare for trans children and people needing abortions has become illegal, meaning Kentuckians seeking this healthcare must drive out of state to receive it. Without proper regulation put into place, the movement of these vehicles can be, and are being tracked by the Flock camera network—not just here in Lexington—but spread across the U.S.

Furthermore, just a few months ago, the Kentucky legislature passed into law House Bill 5 which widely expands what constitutes criminal activity to include people who are unhoused or sleeping in their cars, while also reducing thresholds for numerous activities to be considered a felony. Flock cameras, which are largely unregulated, will likely play a large role in policing HB5, one of the most abusive laws to come out of Kentucky’s legislature this year.

If so much has changed in three years’ time, what and who will become illegal in the next five? It is hard, overwhelming even, to face these truths and questions. Even so, they must be faced, and there are still many more difficult truths to sit with and consider before Lexington should sign a five-year contract with Flock cameras.

It’s not too late to call your council members and ask them to hold off on this contract extension. It is not too late to get an external and independent audit to see exactly how Flock cameras are being used here in Lexington. We don’t know what the next five years will hold, but criminalizing more and more of our neighbors is a possibility. Take action, so we can better take care of one another.

A Flock automated license plate reader camera. On Thursday, Lexington council members will vote to expand the program.
A Flock automated license plate reader camera. On Thursday, Lexington council members will vote to expand the program.

Sarah Wylie VanMeter lives in Lexington.