March 30, 2013

New traffic cameras to combat crime


---- — PLATTSBURGH — Construction will start soon on infrastructure for license-plate-recognition cameras in the City of Plattsburgh that will help authorities fight crime both locally and nationally.

The cameras will be used mainly to detect vehicles with suspended registrations, Plattsburgh City Police Capt. Michael Branch said.

The roughly $44,000 in funding for the two automatic license-plate readers and their installation comes from the High-Intensity Drug-Trafficking Areas program, run by the White House Office of National Drug Control, said Plattsburgh City Police Capt. Michael Branch.

Clinton and Franklin counties were named two of 28 High-Intensity Drug-Trafficking Areas nationwide a few years ago.

The readers will be located on Interstate 87 south's Exit 38 off-ramp, which connects to Boynton Avenue and North Catherine Street in the city. They use optical recognition to take pictures of the license plate of each car as it drives into the field of vision and converts the picture to a computer-coded text, he said.

"It's instantaneous."


Infrared light makes it possible for the cameras to work both day and night. They can record the images at a rate of about one per second for vehicles traveling at up to 100 miles per hour, according to ELSAG North America, the company that makes them.

These will be the first devices of their kind in the City of Plattsburgh.

Branch said they should be in operation by June.


The cameras will be placed in a strategic location, about 150 feet before the traffic light on the off-ramp, so they can read the license plates of cars that will be driving straight or turning right or left, Branch said.

They will transmit the data they collect back to the Plattsburgh City Police Department, which will then send it to the High-Intensity Drug-Trafficking Areas' New York/New Jersey office, he said.

Officers can program the units to alert them when they detect a certain license-plate number, Branch said.


The City of Plattsburgh Common Council approved the project at its March 14 meeting. Contractors will be hired to excavate, set tubes, pour concrete and backfill for construction of the pole on which the cameras will be mounted, according to the meeting minutes.

A state-licensed engineer drafted a plan for the camera poles, and the Plattsburgh Municipal Lighting Department will be working on the project, Branch said.

City Police are working on getting a permit from the U.S. Department of Transportation so the cameras can be installed on the interstate.

The federal program will directly pay ELSAG North America and the construction companies working on the installation, Branch said.


Plattsburgh Police say they have benefited from a different kind of camera that's already in the city. Several surveillance devices monitor the downtown area, Branch said.

Footage from those cameras was used, for example, to collect evidence on Dustin C. Hill, who strangled Jason M. Larabie to death near the Saranac River boat launch on Green Street in August 2011.

Surveillance footage is a good tool to "weed out the truth from the lies or inaccurate memory" of suspects or witnesses, Branch said.

City Police hope the new cameras will give them a valuable new source of information about potential criminals, either local or foreign, who are traveling in the area.

"Technology like that is great."

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