ROTTERDAM, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Rotterdam Police Department is upgrading their traffic cameras and making it easier to track down suspects in real time.
Deputy Chief Michael Brown says the cameras are their prime crime solving tool, and the installation of new vehicle recognition software will only enhance it.
In the four years that Rotterdam has had traffic cameras, Deputy Chief Brown says they’ve been crucial in solving burglaries, bank robberies, and more.
“We use those in almost every crime that is committed in the town,” he said.
And now the cameras are getting an upgrade. Lt. Jeffrey Collins says the installation of the Rekor Systems software on five existing cameras will turn them into license plate readers that send back real-time data.
“In a dangerous situation like an Amber Alert or anything where time is paramount, if any vehicle passes these areas we can look up and find where and when they pass and potentially who may have been driving that vehicle,” said Collins
Rekor’s Watchman software comes at a $50 monthly fee, which the company says is far more cost effective than buying new license plate recognition equipment.
“License plate recognition has been around for a decade, but It’s been so expensive that there’s just not a lot of it around because a police departments can’t afford 20 thousand dollars for a camera,” said Rekor’s Chief Science Officer Matthew Hill.
Along with the plate, the software records the make, model, and color of the vehicle and will alert police if it’s on a hotlist.
“We’re seeing stolen car arrests going way up. As soon as a car gets stolen they catch the guy and they recover the property,” said Hill.
Right now, Rotterdam is the lone local department with the Rekor software, but it’s used in 30 states and information can be shared among departments.
“Any agency that has this camera system will be able to search through that data to see if that have that suspect’s vehicle that may have gone through any of the cameras throughout the country,” said Deputy Chief Brown.
As always, there’s the issue of privacy.
“Storing data historically for months and searching on people that haven’t committed any crimes; I think that’s a legitimate concern,” said Hill.
But Rekor says the public good outweighs the possible privacy violations and people we spoke with tend to agree.
“I like my privacy, but I think it’s a good idea,” said Bruce Bacon from Rotterdam.
“If somebody stole your car wouldn’t you want your car back?” said
Drivers won’t notice any differences with the existing traffic cameras, but the software is expected to go live by the end of September.