Thurston Co. Sheriff proposes installing 20 high-tech traffic cameras to fight crime

The Thurston County Sheriff is considering the use of high-tech cameras to help fight crime on the streets. 

Sheriff Derek Sanders says the cameras would provide an extra set of eyes on the road, to identify stolen or suspicious vehicles. He says the cameras would contain license plate readers and vehicle recognition technology.    

Under a new proposal, around 20 cameras would be installed with the help of an outside company that would lease the cameras. The cameras would be positioned to watch busy intersections and high-traffic areas, like I-5. They would be programmed to send deputies an alert if a car they were looking for drove by.  

This busy stretch of I-5 on the border of Thurston and Pierce County, pictured above, is one of the areas the sheriff would like to consider installing one of the cameras. 

"This would be a good location to have it because it would be a convenient spot to get on and off the freeway too," said Cheryl Devers, who works nearby. She says the intersection is a hot spot for stolen vehicles. 

"It's scary anymore out here," she said. 

Devers said she had her catalytic converter stolen off of her car twice in one year and supports the idea, hoping that the cameras would help to stop thieves in Thurston County. 

"I would like that 100%," she said. 

The sheriff's office believes that the cameras will help identify where stolen and suspicious vehicles are on the road, faster. 

"If we take a robbery with a gun, and someone says ‘It’s a red Kia with no plates,’ we can filter through that and say, ‘Hey, notify us if any vehicle drives by that’s a red Kia with no plates." 


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Sanders says the cameras containing the license plate readers and vehicle recognition technology would be an extra set of eyes for deputies who can't be everywhere at once. 

"They can’t sit at every intersection looking for those stolen cars, the people driving around with felony warrants," said Sanders. 

In addition to solving crimes, the sheriff says the cameras would help locate vehicles involved in Silver Alerts and Amber Alerts and assist with drug trafficking cases.  

He says the cameras would cost around $50,000 annually to lease, with maintenance, replacement of cameras as needed, and repairs included in that price.  

"We don’t own any equipment. It’s all leased. So, we don’t have to worry if the equipment gets vandalized or stolen. They replace it, included in the package," he said.  

The sheriff proposes placing them on high-crime traffic routes. 

"We see a lot of our felony criminal suspects coming from Pierce and King County," he said. "So, me personally, off the top of my head, I can already think of lining all those borders up."

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Sanders says I-5 near Nisqually would be an ideal location for a camera.  

"The joke in our patrol division is, if there is a violent crime that occurs, just sit at the Pierce County border and wait for a suspect to drive by," said Sanders. "I can’t tell you how many times that’s worked. We took a robbery at Martin and Marvin, and I’ll just go sit up at I-5 and Nisqually, and wait for a car to drive by. Pretty much every time, they drive by."

Sanders says similar cameras have already been installed in Centralia and Yakima. He says those programs have been successful.  

Still, residents like Baxton Letual are uneasy.  

"I see the reason why they want to do it, but I personally don’t agree with it," he said. "If it’s going to be automated camera, I think that it’s going to be a somewhat invasion of privacy.

Sanders says he will be presenting the idea to county commissioners in the next few months.