Cacti cameras watching over Paradise Valley

(Source: KPHO/KTVK)

Paradise Valley is known to have speed cameras, but now the town has new sets of cameras to serve a different purpose.

Some are calling this an invasion of privacy, while town officials say it's a useful police tool.

"It just showed up," Lois Ponczak said.

She has lived at the corner of 40th Street and Stanford Drive for more than 50 years. She says she's seen lots of change in that time, but a fake Saguaro cactus with cameras in it is a first.

"It was natural beauty all around and, you know, you accept new homes coming up and everything. I understand. That's fine, but not something like this,” Ponczak said. “That went over the edge."

"It's artificial, it absolutely doesn't really do anything other than to take pictures, and we still don't know exactly why,” she added.

Paradise Valley Town Manager Kevin Burke says the purpose of the cameras is to snap pictures of cars as they pass by and record license plate information, which is then entered into a large database that tracks lost or stolen vehicles. If there's a match, it alerts police officers.

But Ponczak questions, for all the people who are not criminals, what's being done with the collected data.

"If I go down that street, I'll know my picture's being taken right off the bat. I wonder what else it's doing,” she said.

As far as the look, Burke says the cameras are not intended to be incognito.

Instead, the fake cacti will only be used to add to the aesthetics of the environment when there is no existing pole to attach the cameras to. Burke added that this is only the case for a few of the 11 locations where the cameras will be installed.

"I hope they find a different solution," Ponczak said.

Mobile license plate readers are already used in police cars. Burke says this just extends the technology to fixed locations.

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