Advancements in technology have certain inherent advantages and certain inherent risks. However, advantages most always outweigh the risks, so long as safeguards are properly established. Such is the case with the recently approved purchase of license plate readers to be installed on both the Judge S.S. Jolley Bridge on S.R. 951 (Collier Boulevard) and the Stan Gober Memorial Bridge on S.R. 92 (San Marco Road) near Goodland.
The technology is far from new. It has been in active use for a minimum of three decades now in law enforcement here in the United States and around the world. As technology has advanced, the cost of this tool has been reduced dramatically, making it available to even smaller agencies around the nation.
Marco Island is probably one of the perfect locations for Automated License Plate Readers (ALPR’s) since its only access for motor vehicles consists of two bridges spanning the Marco River. For the last several years, the Marco Island Police Department has utilized a mobile reader device mounted on one of the department’s existing cars. However, when that car is out of service or not being used for patrols, it isn’t scanning the many license plates traveling around the island.
There are those who complain that the utilization of a reader is an infringement on their Constitutional Rights. However, that argument has been adjudicated before the courts, resulting in rulings that it is not an abridgment of the Fourth Amendment. Recently, Marco Island Police Chief Tracy Frazzano pointed out that in the case of the Commonwealth v. McCarthy, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the limited use of ALPR’s did not interfere with Constitutional protections against unreasonable searches.
The cameras themselves assist law enforcement in a number of ways, including identifying vehicles in the case of child abductions and Amber Alerts, or to detect a vehicle when a Silver Alert has been issued to spot a confused or disoriented adult in need of assistance. They can be used to identify stolen vehicles or those that may have been used in criminal activity and are actively being pursued by our own or other agencies. They can aid in identifying vehicles known to be used by habitual offenders, those with outstanding warrants, and those known to be a potential threat to others, such pedophiles, who may be coming onto the island. They also can help to detect unregistered or uninsured vehicles.
The cameras do not take photos of individuals, but only identify plate numbers and search local and national databases to ascertain whether or not that vehicle has issues related to it. The data acquired from the use of the ALPR’s is exempt from public record requests, as is the owner’s information.
Several years ago, the city purchased a set of these cameras. However, it was later determined that the company that had sold the hardware was ineligible to provide the licensed technology to make them capable of being applied.
The software technology being utilized with the present mobile unit will be compatible with the new stationary units being placed at the two bridge locations. The system being purchased also is compatible with both the Collier County Sheriff’s Office and the City of Naples Police Department. The approved budget amount is $59,250 to provide coverage for both bridges.