CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Cheektowaga Police Department is turning to technology to tamp down crime. License plate reader cameras are being installed on utility poles across the town.
If you live, work, or shop in Cheektowaga, license plate reader cameras could be coming to a street near you. Police say this is another tool to fight crime, but residents have mixed opinions about it.
“I think as technology has advanced, people understand that you are on camera everywhere that you go,” Chief Brian Gould said.
Stationary Flock License Plate Readers have been purchased by the town to help solve a variety of crimes. They are small black boxes mounted near a roadway. Cheektowaga Police are placing them in high traffic areas and in crime hot spots to track down criminals.
The cameras scan the plate as the car drives by, takes a photo of the back of the car, and stores it for 30 days. If a crime happens near one of these cameras, it is very simple to search for the car in question.
“If I’ve got a Flock camera nearby, I can go and put a time frame in and search for all white pickup trucks that drove by and then get pictures and license plates,” Gould added.
Officers also have to submit a reason to look up a vehicle, which Gould says is one of the checks and balances to make sure the technology isn’t abused. He also says the system can be audited at any time.
Chief Gould says the cameras are particularly helpful for stolen vehicles because the system will alert police if any stolen car drives by a camera. Police can also create alerts if there is a known suspect they’re trying to arrest.
“If there’s a suspect that we know is using a vehicle, we can put that into the system and we will get an alert if that vehicle comes in. One of the cases where that’s been successful is for some of our organized retail theft,” Gould explained.
News 4 spoke with several shoppers in Cheektowaga on and off camera. Some say they are concerned this is overstepping their privacy, while others say they hope this will make the streets safer.
“I have concerns about what their declared use of it will be and what the actual outcome of them being around will be,” Stephen Nowicki of Kaisertown said.
“It does help of course if anything ever went wrong you can find these people that might of stolen your car, hit your car, or did some type of crime, but of course some people don’t want to be monitored. I’m driving legally, so it doesn’t bother me,” Desha Martin of Buffalo added.
Cheektowaga Police are launching an online reporting system so retailers and the public can report these types of crimes directly to the department. That is expected to launch in October.
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Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native and Emmy-nominated reporter who joined the News 4 team in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.