New technology leads to hit-and-run arrest in Van Buren Township

‘It’s been a game changer for us’

The vital tool is a special license reading system called Flock Saftey, and it's been less than a year since Van Buren Township got it, and they said it's what broke the case.

VAN BUREN TOWNSHIP, Mich. – A 26-year-old woman was killed in a hit-and-run in Van Buren Township just a few weeks ago.

The alleged driver was arrested hours later, and now investigators are saying a new tool was vital in making that happen.

Read: Man charged in hit-and-run crash that killed 26-year-old woman in Van Buren Township

The vital tool is a special license reading system called Flock Safety, and it’s been less than a year since Van Buren Township got it.

They said it’s what broke the case.

“It’s been a game changer for us, said Van Buren Township Deputy Police Chief Joshua Monte.

When 26-year-old Natia Hardy was hit around midnight July 27 on the I-94 Service Drive, Van Buren Township police didn’t have much to go on, and that’s where Flock Safety came in handy.

“They recovered some debris on the roadway of an F-150, years 1990 to 1999,” Monte said. “So we went back (and) checked our Flock cameras (and) we were able to identify a 1999 and F-50 traveling that roadway right about that time.

The system gave a photo of the vehicle seen in the video player above, and investigators tracked down the person driving it around that time.

After a traffic stop, Kenneth Barrett was arrested and charged.

Monte said this isn’t their only success with the technology.

“We recently had a case where we had an estranged father take a kid from school,” Monte said. “We had a license plate (and) we entered it in our database (and) we had the child recovered within actually a matter of less than an hour.”

Stories like that are what inspire the company behind the technology.

“Warren, Michigan, has actually used this technology to help solve multiple shootings and homicides,” said Holly Beilin of Flock Safety Public Relations. “And imagine the comfort that that gives the families and the victims.”

While privacy is a concern, Flock Safety says there is a difference with their technology.

“So, we’re only taking pictures of license plates, which, as you know, are owned by the state on public roads, where there’s no expectation of privacy,” Beilin said. “And we’re not using facial recognition. We’re not capturing speed.”

Photos are only stored in the system for 30 days; now, more than 30 law enforcement agencies use Flock Safety, and they say it’s not just law enforcement as neighborhood associations use them too.

A suspected hit-and-run driver has been taken into custody after a 26-year-old woman was struck and killed overnight while walking on the I-94 Service Drive in Van Buren Township, officials said.

About the Authors:

Megan Woods is thrilled to be back home and reporting at Local 4. She joined the team in September 2021. Before returning to Michigan, Megan reported at stations across the country including Northern Michigan, Southwest Louisiana and a sister station in Southwest Virginia.

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.