CHESHIRE — The police department plans to buy license plate readers within the next few months, an effort that was re-invigorated by concerns over recent car thefts and break-ins.
The Town Council last week approved an agreement with State Police to use servers and other technology infrastructure at no cost. Police Chief Neil Dryfe said the department will buy three cameras for mounting on police cruisers.
License plate readers scan the plates of passing cars and run them through a database. When the system reads plates associated with stolen or unregistered cars, it alerts the officer.
While some large cities use the plate readers for parking enforcement, Dryfe said parking scofflaws aren’t a major issue in town.
”We have no intention of using them for anything like that here,” he said. “Our intent is to use it for the enhancement of our motor vehicle efforts.”
Cheshire Town Manager Sean Kimball said plate readers were considered before the recent upsurge in car thefts. After the cameras are installed, the council will discuss how they’re being used.
“We’re going to evaluate it after six months,” Kimball said.
Plate readers have prompted privacy concerns from the ACLU because any plate read by the system is recorded, along with the location and time of the scan.
The council authorized license plate readers several years ago but Dryfe said the computers in police cruisers weren’t compatible. Installing readers became feasible after an upgrade to the computers.
The cameras cost about $15,000, according to Dryfe. By using the state’s technology infrastructure, the town saves about $8,000 in server and other storage costs.
Southington police first installed license plate readers on police cars in 2012. The majority of arrests made as a result of scans were for uninsured or unregistered cars, according to data collected by the Record-Journal in 2013.
In addition to vehicle violations, plates linked to cars owned by “supervised persons” are also flagged. Supervised persons include those missing, on parole or on probation. Cars registered to those on the sex offender registry and the terror watch list are also flagged.
Dryfe said he’ll know the full capabilities of the license plate reader system better after it’s installed.