MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Police on Long Island will soon be equipped with more license plate readers.
Nassau County is using a $1 million grant to get dozens more, but they won’t just be used for traffic violations.
It was named the safest community in America in 2020 by U.S. News and World Report, so why is Nassau County in need of more crime-fighting tools?
“You can never rest on your laurels. The world is always changing. We want to make sure that we are constantly honing and refining and using the latest technology,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said.
Once just a device to go after unregistered drivers and traffic scofflaws, license plate readers are now being used by law enforcement across Long Island as an intelligence tool, collecting data for crime trends and using it to solve homicides and robberies.
“I’m not a bad person, so you can read all day. I have no issue,” one driver told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan.
Now, a $1 million state grant for dozens more readers, coupled with thousands in assets seized in Nassau crimes, means local taxpayers are not footing the bill for the cameras that can run up to $30,000 each.
“What about my privacy? If I’m just driving around, why do they have to check my license plate?” one Nassau County resident said.
Civil liberties advocates worry about a threat to privacy, that the data from these cameras can be used and stored improperly.
But police say information is saved for a year and uploaded to the cloud. The cameras capture plates of vehicles which are publicly visible, therefore offer no expectation of privacy.
“We use it in missing persons, we use it in kidnappings,” Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said. “When you see the AMBER alerts, we run those plates through our data to see if they hit within our area.”
“If it’s for AMBER alerts, I completely agree with it, actually,” one woman said.
Some drivers concede there is no privacy anymore since smartphones, EZ Pass data and ubiquitous cameras have killed the era of untracked travel.
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