More eyes in the sky — Costa Mesa PD will add 15 license plate reader cameras to grid

A Flock automated license plate reader cameras for use by police.
Costa Mesa officials this week approved adding 15 new Flock automated license plate reader cameras for use by police, bringing the total number to 46.
(Courtesy of the city of Costa Mesa)

Hoping to continue on recent gains made in retrieving stolen vehicles and apprehending the felons who drive them, thanks to the use of automated license plate reader cameras, Costa Mesa police are looking to add more units on city streets.

In the first year since the solar-powered cameras were installed throughout the city, they’ve assisted in 107 felony arrests and the recovery of 80 stolen vehicles, according to Costa Mesa Police Chief Ron Lawrence.

“The total estimated recovery value of those 80 stolen vehicles is $1,288,847 over that first year alone, making the Flock ALPR system return on investment to our community a great asset,” Lawrence said in an email Thursday.

A worker installs an automated license plate reader in Costa Mesa.
A worker installs an automated license plate reader in Costa Mesa. The devices started going up in February 2023 and have already helped police find 80 stolen vehicles.
(Courtesy of the Costa Mesa Police Department)

Given the program’s success, officials are now deepening that investment. The Costa Mesa City Council Tuesday approved the execution of two lease agreements — one extending an earlier lease for 31 Flock cameras installed last year and another allowing CMPD to obtain another 15 units.

A $306,900 allocation in the police department’s budget will fund the first three-year lease, while an additional $153,750 to cover the cost of the new cameras for three years will be funded by a grant through the Board of State and Community Corrections’ Organized Retail Theft Prevention grant program.

In addition to recording dates, times, locations and plate details, the system issues “hotlist” alerts on vehicles stolen or connected to crimes and criminal suspects to more than 200 member law enforcement agencies, including in Huntington Beach, Irvine, Newport Beach and Laguna Beach.

Lawrence said Flock cameras play a significant role in preventing crime as well.

“Of those stolen vehicles driven into Costa Mesa from another city, when we stop those vehicles and arrest the felons in possession of the stolen car, we will never know how much crime we prevented them from committing while they would have been in our city,” he said. “That alone makes this an invaluable crime prevention technology.”

Costa Mesa plate readers had, as of Thursday, recorded 1,443,660 vehicles during the last 30 days and 4,808 hotlist hits from multiple agencies, according to data available on CMPD’s website and at

A copy of Costa Mesa Police Department’s full ALPR policy can be found online at