GREENBELT —City residents will soon be under 24-hour surveillance after the Mayor and City Council approved a grant for a license plate reader Monday evening. Mayor Emmett Jordan said the city will place the camera, similar to ones currently used on patrol cars, in a fixed position to gather intelligence at all hours near “high- […]
GREENBELT —City residents will soon be under 24-hour surveillance after the Mayor and City Council approved a grant for a license plate reader Monday evening.
Mayor Emmett Jordan said the city will place the camera, similar to ones currently used on patrol cars, in a fixed position to gather intelligence at all hours near “high- crime hot spots.”
The license plate reader can scan up to 1,000 plates per second, said Cpl. Tim White. The police department then runs the data through local, state and national databases to find matches. If the license plate matches with a report of a stolen car, wanted person or any other criminal activity, an alert is sent to nearby officers through their mobile data computers.
“It is a way of spotting some folks that go through our city and it’s a way of stopping them,” Mayor Pro Tem Judith Davis said. “You would be amazed the number of times police, even on a regular pullover, they find weapons, they find drugs; they find warrants. So this way it just helps them along so they don’t have to be everywhere at one time.”
Once the city police acquire the data, they send it to the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center, which holds onto the data for a year, White said. City police may then submit requests to access the data on a case-by-case basis to aid investigations.
During the presentation, Jordan asked if storing data invades an individual’s privacy, but in the end, decided they do not because information is only provided on a case-by-case basis.
“I’m very concerned about confidentiality and privacy policies and I asked the question to know what is in place. I think that we do have a right to some confidentiality,” Jordan said. “You have to be prudent in measured use of these kinds of technologies when privacy concerns and policies are in place.”
Davis said she understands the public’s concerns regarding privacy issues, the citizens should have nothing to worry about.
“With speed cameras and red light cameras people complain about big brother and that type of thing,” Davis said. “But if you are a law-abiding citizen doing what you should do and not doing things you’re not supposed to do then you shouldn’t have to worry about it. No one is going to use it on you.”
According to city staff, the city is purchasing the reader from Applied Technology Services for $19,253. The city is funding the reader through a $49,000 grant from the Maryland Vehicle Theft Prevention Council. The rest of the grant money will be used for new crime analysis software that will make it easier for police officers to quickly organize and make sense of data.
White said the Maryland State Police already use 24-hour license plate readers on several highways, and the department has been pleased with their success.
“Overall crime has gone down, so then some of the auto crimes [and] petty thefts have a definite impact on citizens’ lives. We’re looking at ways to combat that,” White said. “I’ve talked with the council here and we feel that while these cameras are in use statewide, we’re going to try to use it here in the city to combat auto crimes.”