Installing license-plate recognition cameras on Longboat Key has not happened as fast as the shutter on a camera clicks a picture. Instead, it’s been a 36-month slow-motion process and Longboat Key still doesn’t have cameras installed on either end of the Key.
Three years after the late Longboat Key Police Chief Al Hogle proposed the system, Police Chief Pete Cumming said he is just waiting for town lawyers to sign agreements. Then, the license-plate recognition cameras can be installed in the coming weeks.
The system has been hung up for months as debate with both the Florida Department of Transportation and Florida Power & Light ensued about camera placement.
“That was the hardest part and it’s done now,” Cumming said.
The second-hardest part was making sure cameras caught every license plate coming and going. That turned out to be a problem on the north end.
To combat the problem, four cameras are to be placed at the north end to make sure motorists can’t turn right on North Shore Road after coming over Longboat Pass Bridge to avoid the cameras. By turning right on North Shore Road and coming back out onto Gulf of Mexico Drive at Firehouse Road, motorists could have found a loophole. But Cumming worked to avoid that problem by getting two more cameras at Firehouse Road.
“We had to cover all our bases there or it wasn’t going to be effective once word spread that the cameras weren’t there,” Cumming said.
Cameras are going in the following locations in the coming weeks:
• One northbound and one southbound camera on the south end of the Key near the south-end water treatment plant, just south of the entrance of the Longboat Key Club and Resort;
• One northbound and one southbound camera at Gulf of Mexico Drive and North Shore Road;
• One northbound and one southbound camera at Firehouse Road and Gulf of Mexico Drive.
The license-plate recognition cameras will capture information on license plates entering the Key in about 250 milliseconds.
Hogle first discussed the idea in February 2010, at a Longboat Key Town Commission workshop.
The department is using police forfeiture funds to pay for the $79,000 camera system.
The license-plate recognition camera system uses optical character recognition to read license plates on vehicles and takes a picture of the license plate. The information is then run through a current database provided by the Florida Crime Information Center and Federal Crime Information Center. The database would be maintained as evidence by the Longboat Key Police Department and made available only for criminal investigations.