Along the Coast: Delray OKs funding for license-plate cameras; others cite progress

By Rich Pollack

    Efforts to install license-plate recognition cameras in several communities along State Road A1A in south Palm Beach County are continuing to move forward, with Delray Beach commissioners giving a green light last month for the installation of systems at five locations east of the Intracoastal Waterway.
    Delray Beach commissioners approved spending $166,000 for the systems, clearing the way for project leaders to begin planning for installation and implementation of cameras and software.
    Delray Beach Police Capt. Tom Mitchell said a planning meeting will be held this month with representatives from the company providing the systems, L-3 Mobile Vision, as well as with Florida Power & Light Co. representatives and other city representatives.
    Meanwhile, in Ocean Ridge, Police Chief Hal Hutchins said he is moving forward with his study to make sure all legal hurdles are cleared and all regulations complied with before going back to the Town Commission with a funding request.
    “There are a lot of moving pieces involved and everything has to mesh together,” Hutchins said. “Once the project is fully vetted and we’ve crossed every T and dotted every I, we’ll be able to move forward.”
    In Highland Beach, Police Chief Craig Hartmann said he hopes to bring a request for funding for a license-plate recognition system to town commissioners this month. To help reduce costs, Highland Beach will team with Delray Beach and will likely share servers used by the system as well as the cost of cameras at Linton Boulevard and A1A.
    License-plate recognition systems work by scanning tags of passing cars and comparing that information to tag numbers entered into law enforcement databases. If a tag registered to a stolen vehicle is spotted by the system, for example, an alert is sent to a dispatcher who verifies the information and then notifies officers on patrol.
    The systems can also be used for a variety of investigative purposes, including helping detectives determine the getaway route of a vehicle used in a crime.
    Mitchell says technology now makes it possible for police officers on patrol to be notified on their laptops if there is a match between a tag number in the database and one found by a nearby scanner.
    Plans to sprinkle license-plate recognition cameras throughout several communities on Delray Beach’s barrier island had been in the works for years but were derailed more than a year ago when Florida transportation officials refused to allow them on state rights of way.
    But new technology such as that used by L-3 Mobile Vision makes it possible for cameras to read tags as far away as 130 feet from the center of a roadway.
    Mitchell said all but one of the five locations planned for scanners in Delray Beach are on city-owned property.
In Highland Beach and Ocean Ridge, officials will need legal agreements to place scanners on private property.

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