|Posted by Anne Siren on September 7, 2012 at 2:45 PM|
Lighthouse Point – Police expect to recover $500,000 in stolen property by the end of year thanks to the newest members of the department – license plate identification cameras.
According to police, the cameras have led to a 220 percent increase in the number of stolen vehicles recovered in 2010 and an increase of 180 percent in the number of stolen vehicles recovered in 2011.
The cameras also recently led to the city being awarded the International Motorola Webber Seavey Award for Quality in Law Enforcement, presented by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, or IACP. The IACP selects police departments worldwide and recognizes those that promote excellent standards in law enforcement that contribute to a better quality of life in the communities they serve.
Police Chief Ross Licata and Commander Mike Oh will attend the IACP conference in San Diego on Oct. 1 to accept the award. “We’re only the sixth police agency in the State of Florida to ever receive this award,” said Licata. “We’re understandably quite proud that we’ve been recognized.”
The Transient Offender Interdiction Program began in 2010 when the city installed 26 cameras that monitor the license plates of vehicles that come into Lighthouse Point. When a car enters the city its license plate is checked against Florida records; police use the information to look for stolen cars or if the driver is wanted for another crime.
“It’s proven to be quite successful in the clearance of a number of cases that otherwise would not have been solved,” said Licata. “We’re going to be adding 18 additional cameras in other strategic locations before the end of this year.”
The initial expenditure for the cameras was $260,000 with the new ones expected to cost $140,000. All of it was taken out of the police forfeiture budget, which is funded by the money and property police confiscate from convicted criminals. “I couldn’t think of a better use of the money,” said Licata.
Licata said the cameras have also led to solving a number of other crimes.
One crime involved a property owner who claimed to be in Miami when his building was set on fire. Cameras revealed the he lied to police and was driving around the scene at the time of the arson. “I probably have another 30 or 40 stories like that,” said Licata.
Mayor Fred Schorr and Commissioner Glenn Troast see the cameras as another weapon for law enforcement.
“It’s a means to an end. Another tool we can use to protect the residents,” said Schorr.
“I think it goes to show the quality and creativity of our police chief and the law enforcement officers that work with him. It’s one of the more creative solutions that are out there in this day and age,” said Troast.
Licata credits the commission with pushing the program forward.
“They had the vision to think outside the box and to overcome some of the fears that are attributed to this kind of technology,” he said.
But not everyone is a fan of the cameras.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida is seeking more information on how police track and record the movements of cars and individuals using the cameras.
“Automatic license plate readers provide the technology that can pose a threat to American’s privacy, secretly monitoring and collecting the movements of every motorist who encounters the system,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, in a press release. “We want to make sure that there are local ordinances or police protocols that govern how the police will be cataloging and using the information the readers collect since much of it can be sensitive and personal to each of us.”
Licata defended the use of the cameras. “I think we took great precaution to ensure we weren’t using data for any other reason.”
Despite the results, officials said there’s no replacement for residents who are aware of what’s going on in their neighborhoods.
“If they see something they need to say something. Nobody knows their neighborhood better than the residents do,” said Schorr. “The cameras are great . . . but we still need to be proactive.” To reach Lighthouse Point dispatch, call 954-942-8080.