Naugatuck to use traffic cams to deter crime

Naugatuck Deputy Police Chief C. Colin McAllister speaks during a news conference in November at the Naugatuck Police Department. Citizen’s News

By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck Police Department will soon use traffic screening cameras to deter and stop crime in the borough.

The Board of Mayor and Burgesses unanimously approved on Tuesday entering into a one-year agreement for $6,000 with Rekor Recognition Services, Inc. of Maryland. The borough will install five license plate reading cameras strategically throughout its roads.

“It essentially takes a picture of the license plate and based on the license plate photo, it’s able to go into a computer that then uses AI to get the registration information and cross reference with law enforcement criminal justice information system databases to see if it’s a stolen vehicle, a wanted vehicle and allow us to make any references or alerts.” Deputy Police Chief Colin McAllister said at the borough board meeting.

The camera system uses Artificial Intelligence to send alert notifications to police officers’ computers in their cruisers. Police would be alerted as soon a stolen vehicle exited the highway and entered into the borough, according to McAllister.

The company is working with police to analyze borough traffic patterns to find the most effective points and highest traffic volumes to decide the best locations for the cameras. The information obtained through the cameras would remain confidential and be used only for investigative purposes, McAllister said.

“This is going to be an anti-crime initiative which will be regional,” McAllister said. “It’s going to allow us to gather information on suspect vehicles that have been identified in crimes throughout the area. We’ll be alerted if they enter the community.”

McAllister said other local communities have already or plan to sign with the company including Watertown, Middlebury, Waterbury and Connecticut State Police.

The Watertown Town Council recently approved a $12,000 agreement to install 10 cameras in locations around town.

The borough will use forfeiture of funds from drug seizures of past investigations to pay for the entire contract, according to McAllister.

“We like it when you take money away from the bad guys and use it to catch more bad guys,” Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said during the meeting. “Sounds great to me.”

Police have grown accustomed to using camera footage from businesses, and more recently residential homes, to fight crime. As motor vehicle crimes and property thefts increase, police will add this instrument to their toolbox.

Police plan to review renewing the contract in about a year to expand to 10 additional cameras, McAllister said.

This camera technology is not entirely new. Police previously mounted the camera system on the back of a police cruiser but police found it wasn’t as effective as a fixed camera, according to McAllister.

Police anticipate having the cameras up and running before the new year.