ALBANY — In Philadelphia, they’ve helped stem a growing tide of car thefts. In New York, they’ve helped police recover hundreds of stolen cars, nab wanted suspects and detain persons of interest in various crimes.
And soon, they’ll be watching you ride down the streets of Albany.
The Albany City Commission approved the purchase Tuesday of four mobile license plate scanners that will be mounted onto police cars and sent out into the community to help catch criminals.
For the police department, the scanners represent another weapon in an increasingly high-tech arsenal of tools meant to multiply the effect of the limited police officers on the ground.
For the Albany City Commission, they’re a way to deal with the high number of suspects who are wanted by police but have yet to be captured while increasing revenues from tickets, fines, fees and forfeitures.
“There’s no way that an officer can physically check every vehicle to make sure that it hasn’t been stolen or that it doesn’t belong to someone who is wanted,” Assistant City Manager Wes Smith said. “This is something that actively scans license plates as the officers are riding down the street, and if it comes across one that is believed to have an expired tag, or maybe have an outstanding warrant, the officer can initiate a traffic stop and find out more about the situation.”
The scanners are being used across the country at departments big and small to help departments stretch their resources beyond those that physical officers can handle.
In Buffalo, N.Y., the police department has put together a promotional video showing how the devices have helped them monitor one of the country’s largest gateways into Canada by scanning the tags of incoming vehicles.
The scanners don’t come without concerns, however.
In the tiny town of Glen Cove, N.Y., Police Chief William Whitton has recently had to defend his purchase of the devices to the community, which feel its a little too “big brother” for them.
“We’re only interested in getting those people who shouldn’t be out on the streets off the streets,” Smith said.
If Tuesday’s vote is ratified by the commission later this month, the police department will purchase four of the units from Virginia-based DRS Technical Services for a total of $87,758.