Town expands tag reader system

Thursday, October 31, 2019 0 Comments

Cities across the country rely upon cameras that scan license plates and alert police to criminal suspects.
Miami-Dade Police have used a mobile license plate recognition camera in Miami Lakes for the past year.
Within the next three months, the town will begin installing up to 32 cameras at major intersections.
The program will eventually cost about $614,000 and is not without controversy.
The devices, called LPRs for short, may also violate a driver’s right to privacy, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
But Miami-Dade Police Maj. Javier Ruiz, who commands the northwest district station in Miami Lakes, is already a believer in the systems that he said resulted in 10 arrests during the year that they’ve been used in town.
“The LPR works,” Ruiz told The Miami Laker.
Municipalities including Miami Lakes, Doral, Coral Gables, Miami Beach and Miami Springs are clients of Vigilant Solution’s LPRs.
The LPR also creates a photo of the back of vehicle; the company said it doesn’t scan drivers’ faces.
The LPR immediately notifies police of a suspicious tag or vehicle. Officers then follow up to see if there is criminal activity that justifies an arrest.
Among those arrested in the past year were two people accused of possessing stolen tags; five others were taken into custody for investigations into car thefts; two people had outstanding fugitive warrants and one arrestee was accused of possessing narcotics, according to Ruiz.
The device also helped identify a vehicle involved in a hit-and-run crash that is still being investigated, Ruiz said.
The mobile device has been moved around to different intersections in town.
According to Miami Lakes’ contract with Vigilant Solutions, the town budgeted $245,000 in 2018 for cameras and a trailer.
Expanding its use will add about another $400,000 to those costs, and the town will buy equipment in phases.
Installations of LPRs are planned for the following six intersections:
--Northwest 67th Avenue at Northwest 167th Street;
--Northwest 67th Avenue at the Gratigny Parkway;

--Northwest 154th Street at Northwest 77th Avenue;
--The Palmetto Expressway south exit;
--Northwest 87th Avenue at Northwest 138th St.; and
--Northwest 87th Avenue at Northwest 170th Street.

Fans of LPRs say the cameras may deter criminals from targeting Miami Lakes.
Mayor Manny Cid has offered the devices to homeowner associations for possible use.
But according to published reports, LPR companies don’t only record and store information in their databases, they also sell it.
Where that information may go worries the ACLU.
The group argues the cameras pose privacy issues since they collect and store data from vehicles that are not involved in criminal activity.
“The main problem with license plate readers is that they are not being used only to search for suspects, but also to keep records on the whereabouts of everybody,” said Gaby Guadalupe, spokeswoman for the ACLU of Florida.
“Tracking people’s movements is a significant invasion of privacy that can reveal many things about our lives, such as what friends, doctors, protests, political events or churches we visit,” she said.
Guadalupe said town officials “need to ensure people’s right to privacy is protected.”
A spokeswoman for Vigilant Solutions said the company doesn’t discuss its contracts.
But Ruiz said privacy is not an issue when the cameras are used in Miami Lakes.
The data collected and stored is for law enforcement use only and is not accessible to the public, Ruiz said.
“In fact, we can deny public records requests because it’s for law enforcement use only,” Ruiz said. “You can request data on your vehicle, but not for anyone else’s vehicle.”

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