Freeport, NY License Plate Readers Catch Criminals

Feb 8, 2016

In this Nov. 19, 2015 photo, Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy demonstrates the village’s license plate scanner system at Village Hall in Freeport, N.Y. Since November 2015, the ring of 27 cameras has scanned more than 15.4 million license plates, resulting in 25 people being arrested, 500 cars being impounded and more than 2,000 summonses being issued.
Credit (AP Photo/Michael Balsamo)

Freeport, N.Y., is sending a message to criminals coming into the village: enter at your own risk. The village’s mayor said that’s because of the success of its newly installed license plate reading system.

Mayor Robert Kennedy calls it a fiber-optic ring around the village. The village’s License Plate Reading system has resulted in the recovery of 16 stolen vehicles, 2,000-plus summonses, and 25 arrests over the last three months.

"One of the people that came into the Village of Freeport, with a stolen vehicle, was wanted for murder in Virginia," he said.

The readers scan a vehicle’s plate, compare it to database, and alert police when there’s a match. Kennedy said it’s unique on Long Island.

"It’s implemented nowhere else in the fashion that we’ve installed it with fiber-optics that are impenetrable," he said.

Similar to New York and London, it’s hard-wired and monitored by police at a central location.

Other Long Island police departments use mobile readers mounted on police cars.

The system is not without its drawbacks, however. Freeport police say they also are spending a lot of time chasing motorists for minor offenses like driving with an expired registration.

Kennedy said officers have tried to scale back their responses to the 700 alarms a day triggered by the system.

Civil libertarians argue there should be a report detailing how the data is used.

This report contains information from the Associated Press.