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Hidden cactus cameras alarm Arizona

Officials in a small town near Phoenix, Arizona have started installing surveillance cameras in fake cactuses — a move that surely risks a prickly response from residents suspicious of the initiative.

The camera-equipped cactuses have started appearing along streets in Paradise Valley, population 13,000, though according to a recent Fox 10 News report, the authorities have been slow to explain the precise purpose of the high-tech vegetation-based surveillance system.

After repeated approaches by the news outlet on behalf of concerned locals, officials eventually revealed that the cactuses were being used to house license plate readers. Paradise Valley town manager Kevin Burke said the system is designed to alert cops to stolen or wanted vehicles. He explained that concealing the cameras inside the cactuses meant they could keep the streets looking pretty, at the same time insisting the idea was in no way part of a secretive or undercover move by the town’s leaders.

The cactus cameras, which are reportedly part of a $2 million police technology upgrade green-lighted by the local council last year, have alarmed a number of residents, Fox reported, especially as officials have been slow to explain their purpose.

Burke is adamant that there’s nothing to worry about, however.

“We want to make sure we’re answering everybody’s questions about data retention,” the town manager said, adding, “How the things will be used — we want to make sure that is vetted before we turn these things up.”

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About two dozen fake cactus already house cell phone towers, the Fox 10 report notes. Resident Randy Evans was nonetheless a little unsure about the plan, telling Fox, “I’ve lived here for 30 years and I’ve never seen cameras in a sagurao before.”