September 20, 2007


Plate reader device alerts police to vehicle offenses


Photos by Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Cortland Sheriff’s officer Charles Stevens demontrates the laptop readout of a new device which can scan the license plate of passing cars and alert police to one of five vehicle infractions. 

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — Local police agencies have been issuing a greater number of vehicle violation tickets because of a new license plate reader device.
The device, called the Mobile Plate Hunter 900, is manufactured by Remington Elsag Law Enforcement Systems, a partnership between U.S. gun maker Remington and Italian technology company Elsag.
The Cortland County Sheriff’s Department has one vehicle with the device and began using the system in February. The Cortland Police Department also has the device and began using it Aug. 21.
Since the device was placed into service, the Sheriff’s Department has issued 340 Vehicle and Traffic tickets for both unregistered vehicles and unlicensed operators and also uncovered three stolen vehicles.
City police said they have also seen an increase in tickets since the implementation.
“We get thousands of reads off it a day,” said Deputy Police Chief Frank Catalano. “It’s just one more tool to assist us in what we do.”
Catalano said city police do not have figures yet regarding how many tickets have been issued as a result of the license plate reader.
The license plate reader uses two infrared cameras on top of the patrol car to pick up the reflective properties of a license plate and run the number in the computer system to find any problems.
Mark Windover, president of Remington and Elsag Law Enforcement Systems, said the right camera has a 24-foot range, while the left has about a 16-foot range and can read a vehicle’s plate going up to 75 mph.
“We have had a tremendous amount of success in terms of suspended operators,” said Sgt. Robert Derksen of the Sheriff’s Department. “It’s very efficient at what it does.”
The reader scans anywhere between 6,000 and 9,000 licenses plates a day, Derksen said. Plate information is stored in the program for 30 days.
The plate numbers are photographed by the infrared cameras and transferred to a computer inside the police car. The computer will sound an alert to tell the officer that something is wrong with the vehicle.
No personal information comes up when a plate is scanned, only an alert that there may be a problem with the registered license plate.
There are five types of alerts spoken to the officer when they get a hit on the scans. Level one is for stolen vehicles, level two is stolen plates, level three is for a wanted or missing person, level four is for a suspended or revoked license, and level five is for scofflaws, which are people with numerous tickets or those who fail to report at court.
The system uses the Department of Motor Vehicle hotlist, an electronic list of everything wrong with vehicles registered with the DMV, which is uploaded and refreshed daily.
The Cortland Police Department recently received a $16,800 federal grant from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services to buy a license plate reader, which the department began using Aug. 21.
The county Sheriff’s Department bought the system with a $22,000 grant from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services and with the assistance of the town of Cortlandville, which signed a three-year maintenance contract with Remington.
Richard Tupper, Cortlandville town supervisor, said he was approached by the Sheriff’s Department about the contract and got to see how the device worked.
“They told us how many more tickets would be written and a large portion would go through the town court,” Tupper said. “We were very happy to cooperate, they do good work.”
The town court justice assesses the fines for each ticket that goes through the court. The money then gets sent to the state, which gives a portion back to the town.
The Cortland County Sheriff’s Department was one of 52 sheriff agencies across the state to receive funding for the device.
“It’s a fantastic tool. I would love to put them in every one of our cars,” Derksen said.
Windover said the license plate reader costs about $21,000 and was introduced to the United States in 2004.
Windover said there are 250 police agencies nationwide with the device, 144 of which are in New York.
“Basically every county in New York state has a license plate reader,” Windover said.
Derksen said the best use for the tool is to assist with Amber Alerts, which are alerts issued once a child has been abducted. For example, if a witness wrote down the license plate number, then it can be placed into the system and searched for by patrol cars.
“We are still trying to get used to it and develop a policy for its usage,” said Catalano of the city police department. “We want to learn what the machine can do for us and see what we can accomplish with this. If it looks like we could use another, then we will apply for another grant.”



Board approves Suit-Kote permits

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — The Town Board approved permits Wednesday to allow Suit-Kote to expand its Loring Crossing asphalt production facility and reconfigure its Polkville production site over the next five years.
The Aquifer Protection Permits for the projects were approved at a Town Board meeting Wednesday night, following public hearings on the proposals. The vote was unanimous.
The town Planning Board unanimously approved the project on Aug. 21.
Sandy and Vittorio Panzanella, owners of the Yellow Lantern Kampground just down Route 13 from Suit-Kote’s Loring Crossing facility, made their final requests that the board delay giving the company its approvals until existing odor problems are resolved.
Citizens for Aquifer Protection and Employment, a local environmental group, also presented a prepared statement asking the board not to grant the aquifer permit until carbon absorption systems are installed on all of the asphalt tanks at the two facilities.
Odor issues have proved to be the largest concern in connection with the expansion at the Loring Crossing site.
The company had presented a site plan illustrating plans at the site over the next five years as required by the town Planning Board — although 20 storage tanks are projected as needed sometime in the future and were approved Wednesday, Suit-Kote Operations Manager Dick Schutz said only seven tanks are needed immediately.
At the Polkville site, a single 6 million gallon storage tank will replace several smaller tanks that had already been approved for installation last year but had not been put in.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation has directed Suit-Kote to install carbon vapor mitigation systems — which cut down on noxious odors — on all hot asphalt cement tanks, and the company’s engineering firm will also conduct a study to determine if further odor mitigation can be performed elsewhere.



City, Truxton get housing rehab grants

The city had requested a $650,000 grant.

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — The city has been awarded a $567,000 grant to continue the revitalization of the 5th Ward on the south side of the city.
The state Office of Small Cities announced the recipients of these and other Community Development Block Grants statewide on Wednesday — $10.2 million was distributed across the state.
The city’s grant will be used to enact some of the recommendations of the South End Strategic Plan, which was adopted by the Common Council in June after months of preparation.
Thoma Development Consultants compiled the plan, using $14,400 in state Community Development Block Grant funding and $9,600 in matching funding and contributions from the city.
The money will be used to fund single-family and multi-family housing rehabilitation programs; a small business assistance program; overtime hours for a code enforcement officer; and public infrastructure improvements.
The improvements include water and sewer upgrades on Pierce Street and water upgrades on Winter Street; the repaving of Pierce and Winter streets and South Avenue; sidewalk installation on the south side of South Avenue; a neighborhood-wide sidewalk improvement program; and the installation of street trees along South Avenue.
For the housing rehabilitation programs, applicants must fall below 80 percent of the state median income level — for a family of four, the annual income would have to be equal to or below $40,800 in order to qualify for the programs.
A multi-family homeownership program would have helped pay the down payment, closing costs and rehabilitation of two or three South End homes, but Ann Hotchkin, the project manager from Thoma Development, said she believes this aspect of the grant application was eliminated from the program.
“They’re competitive; you can’t ever say you’re going to get anything for sure,” Hotchkin said this morning.
Hotchkin pointed out that the city also received a $473,000 HOME Program grant from the state about a month ago that will be used to rehabilitate 20 owner-occupied units in the South End, and that some of this money will be able to go toward purchasing a home.