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In wake of burglaries, Greenburgh considers fixed license plate readers

In wake of burglaries, Greenburgh considers fixed license plate readers



May 7, 2011


GREENBURGH — A string of burglaries in the Greenville neighborhood has led officials to consider installing license plate readers on a major thoroughfare.


"I think it's the wave of the future," said police Chief Joseph DeCarlo, who wants the town to buy three or four readers for about $50,000.


The department has mobile ones on two patrol cars.


Three burglaries and two attempts have been reported in that area so far this year. The neighborhood, which DeCarlo said is attractive because of access to major roads for escape, was struck by 20 last year, he said.


Plate readers would allow police to track cars on a certain route around the time of the burglaries, DeCarlo said.


While it's still not clear exactly where the new readers would be placed, DeCarlo said it will likely be on a road with heavy traffic. They also can be helpful in solving hit-and-run accidents, he noted.


The fixed cameras, assigned to one lane of traffic each, pick up the license plate number of every car that passes. Unlike the mobile devices that send data to an officer's laptop inside the cruiser, the stationary ones transmit the numbers to an off-site computer, where officers analyze it. If a plate number pops up that has been flagged by police, an alert could be sent to multiple officers, said Nate Maloney, spokesman for ELSAG North America, a Brewster-based company that produces the devices.


The cameras capture 1,800 "reads" a minute.


The Westchester County district attorney's Intelligence Information Center would help Greenburgh study the data, DeCarlo said, and information from the fixed cameras would be kept about six months.


A growing number of police departments with plate readers on patrol cars are adding them to roads and intersections, Maloney said. Police are learning that, in addition to using mobile readers to find stolen cars, fixed models can help with investigations.


"They are understanding the technology better," Maloney said, and his company is selling more than twice as many stationary readers as 18 months ago.


Town Supervisor Paul Feiner supports getting them, suggesting the town pay for them with contingency funds and state grants.


"When you have a crime or burglary, you are spending money on overtime," he said, arguing that the readers could ultimately save the town money.


Bob Bernstein, president of the Edgemont Community Council, said they are sorely needed, especially with a shrinking police force.


Some people are so afraid of burglaries, he said, they hire ex-cops to watch the area while they're on vacation.


"This technology, if it works, would at least give the police some eyes on the ground to help identify vehicles that can be involved in these kinds of thefts," he said.


A spokeswoman for the New York Civil Liberties Union said giving police the ability to "closely track people's movements and whereabouts" is a concern. Linda Berns, of the Lower Hudson Valley chapter, said the public should know whether the system has privacy protections. Police also should say how long data will be stored, how it will be used and who will have access to it, she said.


LPR Technology | MPH-900 | License Plate Reader