Division of Criminal Justice Services

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Contact: Janine Kava, Press Office
New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services
(518) 457-8906 or (518) 275-5508 – cell
For immediate release: Thursday, March 19, 2009

New York State invests $1 million in federal funds to make roadways safer
52 law enforcement agencies receive grants for license plate reader technology

In an effort to make New York’s roadways safer by decreasing the number of drivers who get behind the wheel of uninsured and unregistered motor vehicles, the state has invested more than $1 million in federal funds to provide 52 law enforcement agencies across New York with license plate reader (LPR) technology.

LPR technology uses specialized digital cameras to capture images of license plates – generally about one per second at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour – and compares them quickly to a large database, allowing law enforcement to quickly and accurately detect illegal vehicles on the roads.

The Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) awarded $1.06 million in federal highway safety grant money to the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), which in turn provided funding so that law enforcement agencies in 25 counties could purchase license plate readers.

Municipalities in the following counties received the grants (entire agency list below): Broome, Chautauqua, Chenango, Erie, Fulton, Herkimer, Livingston, Madison, Monroe, Niagara, Onondaga, Orange, Putnam, Rensselaer, Rockland, Saratoga, Schenectady, Suffolk, Tioga, Tompkins, Ulster, Washington, Wayne, Westchester and Wyoming.

All told, there are approximately 500 license plate readers being utilized in New York State by 291 law enforcement agencies. This is the third time that DCJS has received federal funds through the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee to provide LPRs to local law enforcement.

“I’d like to thank the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee and its chair, Commissioner David J. Swarts, for providing funding for this technology,” said Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Denise E. O’Donnell.

“At DCJS, we are committed to working in partnership with our colleagues in state government to provide local law enforcement with resources that will allow them to enhance the safety and security of their communities,” Deputy Secretary O’Donnell added. “Smart, strategic use of technology – like license plate readers – in tandem with good, old-fashioned police work, will allow law enforcement to stay one step ahead of those individuals who break the law.”

Added Commissioner Swarts: “LPR systems have proven to be an effective tool in getting unregistered and uninsured vehicles off the road. Prior to the use of LPRs, the lives of unsuspecting, law-abiding motorists were continually at risk while these vehicles were being illegally operated on New York roads. These new LPRs will go a long way in improving highway safety.”

DCJS used the grant from the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee to: target law enforcement agencies in counties with the highest number of drivers with suspended or revoked licenses; counties with unique factors that increase population and traffic on roadways, such as colleges or universities and seasonal tourism; and counties that share an international border or border with other states.

According to a recent national study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety, more than 8,000 drivers involved in fatal crashes annually – nearly one of every seven drivers involved in fatal crashes – have invalid licenses, no licenses or an unknown license status.

According to the state Department of Motor Vehicles, nearly 11.3 million people had valid driver’s licenses and there were nearly 10.7 million vehicles registered during 2008 in New York. In 2007, more than 536,000 drivers had their licenses suspended or revoked for at least one day.
In addition to making the state’s roadways safer, license plate readers are being embraced by law enforcement as effective investigative tools, Deputy Secretary O’Donnell said. For example, whenever police issue an AMBER alert or Missing Child alert, suspected vehicle information is entered manually into the LPR database immediately, providing electronic eyes that can read thousands of plates every hour. The technology also has assisted in the search for stolen cars and vehicles suspected in a wide variety of other crimes, including murder.

“License plate readers capture the DNA of the roadway,” Deputy Secretary O’Donnell added.

In addition to federal money provided by the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, license plate reader technology has been funded through the New York State Police, the state Office of Homeland Security, federal Byrne Justice Assistance Grants and legislative member items. In addition, some police departments and sheriff’s offices have purchased LPRs on their own.

The cost of an LPR is approximately $17,500.

The 12-member Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee coordinates traffic safety activities in the state; it awards federal highway safety grant funds to local, state and non-profit agencies for projects designed to improve highway safety and reduce deaths and serious injuries due to crashes. In addition to Commissioner Swarts and Deputy Secretary O’Donnell, the heads of 10 other state agencies with missions related to transportation and highway safety sit on the committee.

The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services is a multi-function criminal justice support agency with a variety of responsibilities, including collection and analysis of statewide crime data; operation of the DNA databank and criminal fingerprint files; administration of federal and state criminal justice funds; support of criminal justice-related agencies across the state; and administration of the state’s Sex Offender Registry and a toll-free telephone number (1-800-262-3257) that allows anyone to research the status of an offender.

The following agencies received grants for License Plate Readers:

County-wide agencies: Niagara County Sheriff and Westchester County Department of Public Safety

Cities: Police departments in Norwich (Chenango County), Gloversville (Fulton County) and Rensselaer (Rensselaer County).

Towns: Police departments in Lakewood-Busti (Chautauqua County); Eden (Erie County); Webb (Herkimer County); Brighton (Monroe County); Cicero (Onondaga County); Crawford, Highlands and Mount Hope (Orange County); Carmel (Putnam County); East Greenbush and Schodack (Rensselaer County); Stillwater (Saratoga County); Niskayuna (Schenectady County); Shawangunk (Ulster County); and Bedford and Mount Kisco (Westchester County).

Villages: Police departments in Endicott and Port Dickinson (Broome County); Depew, Gowanda and Hamburg (Erie County); Avon and Mount Morris (Livingston County); Chittenango (Madison County); Fairport (Monroe County); Baldwinsville (Onondaga County); Chester, Montgomery and Walden (Orange County); Suffern (Rockland County); Scotia (Schenectady County); Huntington Bay and Head of the Harbor (Suffolk County); Owego (Tioga County); Dryden (Tompkins County); Cambridge and Hudson Falls (Washington County); Macedon and Newark (Wayne County); Ardsley, Mamaroneck, Ossining, Pelham and Sleepy Hollow (Westchester County); and Arcade and Perry (Wyoming County).