Wethersfield to Add License Plate Readers

The Wethersfield Town Council has given the green light to police to install stationary license plate readers to two busy roadways. 

The cameras will be installed at undisclosed locations along the Silas Deane and the Berlin Turnpike to record license plates of cars passing by around the clock. 

Wethersfield Police Chief James Cetran said the measure will help the department with criminal investigations.

But the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut (ACLU) said installing license plate readers  should raise a red flag.

"It's just leads. That's what it's for. That's what it is designed to do and that's what we use it for," Cetran tells NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters. 

Over the past 8 years, Wethersfield's police chief says their two license plate readers have helped solve crimes including an armed robbery at the Mercury gas station.

"We got video, got a piece of the marker plate. Ran it through our database for LPR and our recordings and had it 3 different times and we were able to find the car," Cetran added. 

Cetran is looking forward to implementing these 12 new license plate reader cameras in two unnamed stationary spots along the two busy roadways.

Cetran stated, "I'm trying to get ahead of the curve. I truly believe our crime rate is going to go up substantially in the near future."

David McGuire is interim Executive Director of the ACLU of Connecticut, "We have concerns about the data and how long it is collected and what it's used for," McGuire told NBC Connecticut.

McGuire said motorists should be mortified; the license plate reader cameras will scan thousands of plates per hour, and store the data for years.

Allowing officers access without court oversight or judicial review.

"Essentially, its a digital record of everywhere you have been at incredible precision, down to the storefront you visited, the therapist office and mosque for prayer. It is Of real concern that police and the government will have this data."

Crystal Filmore of South Windham said, "I'm mostly against it. However I do feel it's a good idea with all the crime we've been having, however I think that peoples' freedom and rights are really being infringed upon."

Cetran adds the cameras will strictly be used reactively.

"I understand certain groups are afraid of Big Brother, but obviously that is not what it's used for, only using for crime," Cetran stated.

Tonight McGuire is also worried about third party sharing and the information getting into the hands of private entities.

"And our bigger concern is government use," McGuire added.

Cetran tells NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters anyone caught abusing the cameras are subject to arrest for computer crimes. The ACLU said they'll try again in the legislature to get the data stored for weeks or months instead of years.

By the way, the cameras will cost $215,000 and will be covered by asset forfeiture funds seized by the department. The two initial license plate readers brought to the department in 2008, will also be replaced with two new ones. Those cameras will continue to be used on two police cruisers.

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