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New license plate readers tested in West Hartford to enhance safety

The police department is conducting a test trial with various vendors to see which they like best.

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — The next time you drive in West Hartford, your license plate could be captured by a camera. 

This is the West Hartford Police Department's new way of improving public safety. 

13 license plate reading cameras were installed throughout West Hartford approximately a week ago.

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The police department is conducting a test trial with various vendors to see which they like best. 

The current vendor that is being tested now until June is built by Flock Safety, a technology company that helps law enforcement and communities fight crime. 

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"This is an opportunity for silver alerts, amber alerts, robbery suspects," said Police Chief Vernon Riddick. 

The police department has $500,000 in funds and a portion of that will go towards the cameras when a vendor is picked. 

These cameras will send a real-time alert to law enforcement - at a local or national level- when a stolen car or wanted suspect enters the area. They will not capture people, but the chief warned it could occur at times. 

The legal director of the ACLU said that is a problem. 

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"Even if they decide to let the government set up that kind of system, the question is what happens to the resulting data? How long is it held? Who can see it? Is it distributed anywhere?" said Dan Barrett, legal director of ACLU. 

Though, the chief reassured the data captured is never sold or shared with third parties and will not be used for minor traffic or parking violations. 

"Well, there's no expectation for privacy for a license plate. It's out in the open and you're driving around. The cameras are not pointed into vehicles, they're not pointing into houses or businesses," added Chief Riddick. 

While some residents have expressed opposition to the cameras on social media, many who spoke to FOX61 in person said it is a good idea. 

"For someone who has something on their record on their name is definitely going to be a deterrent," said Matthew Cavallo of West Hartford. 

"I'm a dog walker/dog sitter in different areas of West Hartford and there's a lot of petty theft - people breaking into houses," added Pat Hanlon. 

So far, the police department is testing different vendors before they decide to spend money on the cameras. 

Carmen Chau is an anchor and reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at cchau@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


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