Washington Township to consider adding traffic cameras

WAYNE HEIGHTS – Washington Township supervisors are considering the purchase of a traffic camera system that would give township police a new tool to fight crime.

A fixed Automated License Plate Reader captures the license plates of vehicles in view of its cameras and instantly feeds them into the NCIC and PennDOT databases of “hot list” offenses, including wanted criminals, persons of interest and those with expired registrations.

When a license plate image is matched with a plate on the “hot list,” local law enforcement are alerted and a screen shows the reason for the alert so that officers can take appropriate action.

“It captures plates day or night,” explained Roger Morrison of NDI Recognition Systems, a Florida-based company that provides automated licensed plate recognition technology to cities up and down the East coast and around the globe. “Our system is based on artificial intelligence so each time it captures a plate it gets smarter.”

All information is real-time data, so it’s always on duty. Alert criteria is customizable and the data is searchable and offers historical analysis.

Data collected by the system is instantly shared with other law enforcement agencies in the network.

If approved, the township’s ALPR system would be part of the Central Pa. network, which includes Lower Allen Township, Hampden Township, Newberry Township and the Borough of Camp Hill in Cumberland County.

“It is leaps and bounds over what we do now,” said Washington Township Police Chief Michael McGovern.

ALPR cameras scan thousands of license plates in the same amount of time it takes an actual person to scan a hundred.

The cameras only photograph licenses plates.

“There’s no personal information captured by this system. It doesn’t say [Mr. Smith] just drove through the intersection,” McGovern told the board. “The data that comes back is the same data we’d get if we typed it in.”

McGovern said the ALPR is not the type of system that automatically sends tickets to those who run red lights or exceed the speed limit and violators who are on the “hot list” will get a visit from police.

“We’re not gonna get a plate and send a ticket to the person,” McGovern said. “We’re not relying solely on the camera itself. Our officer still has to go out and talk to the person and do an investigation.”

Morrison told the board Monday based on his experience with the systems, businesses near the cameras get a reduction in thefts.

He said the photos may be used if needed for criminal investigations and there is no legislation in Pennsylvania that limits how long the camera data can be kept.

The estimated cost for two fixed cameras at two locations—Washington Township Boulevard near Rouzerville Commons and Buchanan Trail East near Rouzerville—$45,882, plus an annual $300 fee to have data stored on the Central Pa. ALPR Network.

Morrison said other municipalities have used grant money to fund the purchase or have used a lease agreement for financing.

The Washington Township Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on the purchase during a public meeting later this year.

“I think it’s way past its time to look at,” McGovern said.