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Nassau uses $1 million grant for new license plate readers

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran on Thursday thanked State Sen. Kevin Thomas (D-Levittown) for securing a $1 million state grant to purchase fixed and covert portable license plate readers that help law enforcement identify stolen vehicles and find those involved in serious crimes. Credit: Johnny Milano

The Nassau Police Department will use a $1 million state grant to purchase two to three dozen fixed and covert portable license plate readers that help law enforcement identify stolen vehicles and locate individuals involved in serious crimes, county officials said Thursday.

Nassau already has more than 40 readers in place throughout the county on poles, speed and message trailers and in police cars that can read and cross-reference thousands of license plates-per-minute with New York State Department of Motor Vehicle records and law-enforcement databases, Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said at a news conference in Mineola.

The readers collect the license plate numbers on every car that passes, but not other information, such as the owner’s name, except to point out if a car has been stolen, officials said. Plate information would be stored in county databases for one year and then be uploaded to the cloud, Ryder said.

"Plate readers save lives and they save time," said Ryder, who noted that the technology has been utilized in missing persons and kidnapping cases. "And when you save time that investigator has more time to solve that crime and save those lives."

License plate readers are also in use by the Long Beach, Freeport and Hemptsead police departments.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said the new license plate readers will be placed throughout Nassau's Sixth Senate District but could be redeployed throughout the county to hot spots as they emerge.

"The world is always changing," Curran said. "We want to make sure we are constantly honing and refining and using the latest technology to keep our residents safe."

The funding was secured last year by State Sen. Kevin Thomas (D-Levittown). Thomas is in a heated race against Republican Hempstead Town Councilman Dennis Dunne, who has criticized his opponent on a variety of law enforcement issues. Thomas said the timing of Thursday's news conference was not connected to the election and this was the "first opportunity that we could get together."

The Nassau Legislature, which has a Republican majority, has separately approved spending $2 million in asset forfeiture money on additional license plate readers to be deployed throughout the county, Ryder said.

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