Broward Sheriff’s deputies in Parkland do not think it would help them significantly in solving crime, but city officials are not about to drop their plan to have automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) surveillance cameras installed at entry points in the city.
At last week’s City Commission meeting, officials said they wanted to look at statistics from cities that have such cameras, like Lighthouse Point, to see if the cameras had helped in catching criminals. A final decision will then be made, after also taking into account the economic impact of having the devices installed. The city would install 38 cameras at 10 locations if the idea is approved; the set up cost is more than $300,000.
Commissioner Jared Moskowitz, who brought the idea to the table, said he believes the city needs the cameras. “Parkland has experienced several high-level burglaries this year. We also had two cars come off Sawgrass Expressway this year. The cameras could bring a new level of security to residents. It is something we should consider.”
Broward Sheriff’s Parkland Chief Marvin Stoner, who visited Lighthouse Point along with Commander Bryan Cowart for an overview of the system, said he did not think the cameras would help solve crimes faster. “In Lighthouse Point, they have been able to identify [people involved in] thefts. It is not something that will deter a high-speed chase.”
“The system will not run tag information [in] real-time against the FCIC or NCIC database,” Stoner said. “It only compares license tags against those in the hotlist and does not provide information on registered owners. We will have to add five community service aides for 24 /7 monitoring of the system.”
Cowart said having more police officers would be a better option for the city. “The actual deputies on the streets, we would be able to utilize them better in combating crime. [Having the cameras] might take away from patrol time.”
“It is not a choice between two officers and having the cameras,” Moskowitz added. “I support adding the two police officers. The cameras are the next step in providing public safety. We will have a lot of development in the city in the next few years. This is the time to take advantage of that. Let us put this out to bid. Up-front costs can be paid by developer dollars while recurring costs can be paid by tax dollars.”
Moskowitz did not receive wholehearted support from fellow officials.
“I’m definitely a vote for adding two officers,” Mayor Michael Udine said. “We should have done it sooner. This is a system that will be beneficial to the city at some point. This is running license plates 24 hours a day. I am not sure what benefit we will get out of this.”
“I am not totally opposed to the system,” Commissioner Dave Rosenof said. “The time to consider this is during build-out. I want another police zone before we have 38 cameras. One cop on the field will be more proactive than 38 cameras at half a million dollars.”
“I am looking at the initial costs of installing the system,” Vice Mayor Mark Weissman said. “It looks to me like half a million dollars. We could have looked at it if it was something reasonable. Given where the city is financially, I cannot support having the cameras now.”
Apart from asking staff to come back with statistics from equipped cities, such as like Lighthouse Point and Hillsboro Beach, the commission unanimously approved adding two police officers.