The license-plate recognition cameras, if installed, will capture information on license plates entering the Key in approximately 250 milliseconds. The process of putting those cameras in place, however, takes much longer.
The town will issue a request for proposals this week, according to Longboat Key Police Chief Al Hogle, who first discussed the idea at a Longboat Key Town Commission workshop in February 2010. But Hogle is still determining where the cameras will be placed and plans to lobby the Florida Department of Transportation to place the cameras on its rights of way. The ideal location for the cameras would be on an overhang on Gulf of Mexico Drive on each end of the island, Hogle said. But in an Oct. 30 email to town officials, FDOT stated that the only law-enforcement cameras permitted in its rights of way are red-light and toll-violation cameras.
“In the absence of specific legislative authorization, permits for other types of camera systems, such as license-plate readers and surveillance cameras that are used by law enforcement, are not allowed within the FDOT right of way,” the email states. “Additionally, no permits will be issued to use FDOT rights of way for the purpose of connecting cables from license plate readers and surveillance camera equipment located outside the right of way, into FDOT traffic controllers, cabinets, or signals.”
Hogle hasn’t found any communities in his research for which FDOT has made exceptions to its policies on such camera systems. Placing the cameras on poles on the side of the road is possible but would make it more difficult for the cameras to capture information. Hogle, however, has studied other communities where license-plate cameras are used without access to FDOT rights of way. He visited Lighthouse Point, in Broward County, which has 20 cameras in operation along side streets.
The proposed system would take a picture of the rear quarter of each passing vehicle, capturing images of license plates, but not drivers, of vehicles entering and leaving the island and send the data 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 relating to a wanted or missing person alert.
Hogle believes the system would benefit the Key.
“If there’s a lost or missing person or a crime takes place, we would be able to identify that person,” Hogle said. “I think it would increase safety to the community.”
According to a January 2011 memo from Longboat Key Police Chief Al Hogle, 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.