Longboat Key Police Chief Al Hogle is researching a license-plate recognition camera system that could be used as a mass surveillance tool to combat crime.
At the Town Commission’s Feb. 18 regular workshop, Hogle received permission from the commission to continue his investigation of a system that could take the pictures of license plates on vehicles as they come on and off the Key on both the north and south ends of the island.
The information captured on the plate is captured in approximately 250 milliseconds and could be sent to a remote computer server at the police department for further processing or directly to laptops inside patrol cars.
The system would take pictures of the license plates, but not the people driving the vehicles.
“This is potentially a very good tool for us to have in the future to prevent crime,” Hogle said. “Especially if there are signs on both ends of the island that let motorists know that their car and their license plate are being watched out here.”
The data would be sent immediately to the Florida Crime Information Center, which would notify the department if any of the images taken contained information about a stolen vehicle or a wanted person alert.
Communities such as Marco Island, Daytona Beach and Sanibel are also looking into acquiring a camera system, Hogle said. Systems like these are also popular in Europe.
“Three companies that produce the equipment have already come to our island to take a look,” said Hogle, who believes the cost of the system will be approximately $50,000 to $100,000. “It’s a technology worthy of my continuing to investigate this.”
In October, Hogle will be attending a training session of the International Association of Chiefs of Police to review a demonstration of the technology available for such a system.
Hogle also believes the system the town considers purchasing should include cameras taking pictures of license plates on cars that are coming and going.
Hogle said the camera system would be a good complement to the $50,000 laptop computer system that the town purchased for 10 patrol cars.
The camera system, Hogle said, could include possible funding and grant opportunities.
Emerald Harbor resident Bob Craft, who asked the town to consider looking into such a system after his neighborhood was hit with a rash of burglaries last year, was glad that the commission allowed the chief and the town manager to continue investigating a camera system.
“I am pleased the town is working to combat crime on our island,” Craft said. “I also encourage residents to form neighborhood watch groups like we did, with the help of the police department.”
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