Longboat Key Police Chief Pete Cumming told the Longboat Key Kiwanis Club Thursday, June 13, the license-plate recognition cameras are only three weeks away.
The approximately 25 people in attendance were told the cameras and the technology that come along with them, though, will not be surveying every car that comes onto the island.
The information captured from a vehicle’s license plate will be run through a current database the Florida Crime Information Center and Federal Crime Information Center will provide. Those agencies will immediately notify Longboat Key police if the registered owner of the car has an arrest warrant, suspended or expired driver’s license or expired tag, or if the tag comes from a stolen vehicle. The cameras, which will not photograph people, could also help in missing-person cases.
“It’s just a misconception that Big Brother is watching,” Cumming said. “It’s just another set of eyes for our officers.”
Cumming said the cameras don’t infringe upon anyone’s rights.
“If a camera image provides probable cause to stop the vehicle, that’s the same as officers noticing an expired tag on patrol and pulling the car over.”
Cumming said his department doesn’t have the resources to catch everything and “this is just another tool for us to use.”
There will two cameras each on the Longboat Key sides of the New Pass and Longboat Pass bridges — one to capture data from vehicles entering the Key, the other for vehicles leaving the Key. The locations are not in FDOT rights of way; the cameras will be placed on town equipment.
The $79,487.42 camera system is being paid for with police forfeiture funds.
Also at the meeting, Cumming told Kiwanians the town saw no break-in activity when Tropical Storm Andrea passed over the Key June 6. Cumming increased patrol that day after experiencing break-ins when Tropical Storm Debby hung over the Key for a few days in June 2012, allowing thieves to break into flooded, unoccupied homes in Longbeach Village. Cumming said patrols would be increased during and after storms from now on to deter such activity.
Cumming also reiterated a previous stance that he’s unwilling to give up his 911 dispatchers on the Key to have the service performed by either Manatee or Sarasota counties, if that cost-cutting measure affects the town’s level of service. The town is investigating with both counties at this time, but Cumming isn’t ready to render a recommendation.