Longboat Key, Florida - Longboat Key has plenty of picture perfect spots, but later this month, town cameras will be pointed not at the palms, but at the pavement.
Cameras mounted near the two bridges leading to Longboat Key will take pictures of the vehicles both coming and going. The cameras will snap the rear end of the cars and their license plates. If a car is stolen or if the registered owner is wanted, dispatchers at the police department will receive an alert.
Police Chief Pete Cumming sees the system as a crime prevention tool.
"It doesn't photograph the occupants, all it does is alert us to vehicles associated with criminal violations," he explains.
The license plate recognition program is similar to the mobile cameras already used by some law enforcement agencies on their patrol cars. However, privacy advocates are leery of government cameras recording the movements of citizens.
"Maybe they're directed at license plates, but what they're doing is a couple of things; for one, they're creating a database of who is coming and going and when," says attorney and ACLU representative Andrea Mogensen. "So the government building that database is always subject to abuse and it's always going to lead to a privacy problem."
However, some people who spend at least part of their year on Longboat Key say the prospect of cameras doesn't bother them. "It doesn't bother me that law enforcement knows that I'm here," says Mary Enkema.
And Barbara Azzoli says, "I don't feel like it's an invasion of privacy or anything. I think security is a good thing."
The $80,000 camera and plate recognition system is being paid for by money from a law enforcement forfeiture fund.
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