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Marco Island now using cameras to read license plates

Posted at 8:33 PM, Apr 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-23 20:33:55-04

As you come over the bridge into Marco Island, get ready for your close up.

Starting Friday — a camera is taking pictures of every license plate, and checking them against a database of criminals and missing people.

The City estimates the cameras will be scanning about 30,000 license plates every day. It’s a program the Police Department says will keep the community safe, but some City Council members worry about personal privacy.

"The debate was over the Fourth Amendment, which is unreasonable search and seizure," said Council Member Erik Brechnitz.

Brechnitz was one of the Council members who voted for the Automated License Plate Readers, or ALPR. He said ultimately, he didn’t think the cameras were too different from what the City is already doing.

"Our police cars have got license plate readers, so this isn’t anything, this isn’t plowing new ground," said Brechnitz.

In a statement, Police Chief Tracy Frazzano said "Given that 70% of all crime involves a vehicle, we’re confident that this system will assist the Department in making Marco Island a safer place.”

The cameras will be trying to match license plates with "hot lists" that contain plates of known criminals.

That could be for a crime as serious as car theft or kidnapping, all the way down to driving without insurance, but Brechnitz said police will only go after the big stuff.

"It has to be a major violation for them to really drop what they’re doing and try to locate the car," said Brechnitz.

The ALPR is listed as costing the City $59,250 in the budget. In addition to scanning plates, the cameras will be able to give the City a more accurate number of how many cars come in and out of Marco Island every day.