City of Naples to add 40 more license plate readers to help police

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License plate readers. (Credit: WINK News)
License plate readers. (Credit: WINK News)

The City of Naples is spending hundreds of thousands of your tax dollars to get more license plate readers. But it said it is worth the price when it comes to your safety.

These readers search for license plates of people wanted by police, locally or elsewhere. When it reads a plate, police jump into action. The safety and security measure, police said, will keep law-abiding drivers safe.

Hundreds of thousands of cars drive along City of Naples streets every day.

Margaret Merklinghaus, who is one of those drivers, said her most important trips are getting her dogs groomed.

Since the city council approved $228,000 for the Naples Police Department to buy 40 more license plate readers, Merklinghaus feels much safer driving through the streets.

“It’s one of the best things that you can possibly do because when they commit crimes and you can’t catch them, it’s a sad thing,” Merklinghaus said, “because all they’ll do is commit crimes over and over again.”

Right now, NPD has 15 license plate readers in operation. The technology detects tags, pings the information to communications, who then forward that onto officers on patrol who use the intelligence to make traffic stops.

Since privacy is always a concern, the data collected from the plate readers will be deleted after 90 days. Only a select few officials are privy to the information.

Tom Weschler, chief of the NPD, said these plate readers also help his detectives’ close cases.

“It’s great protection for the city,” Weschler said. “It’s great for the citizens and it’s also a deterrent when we get the word out to the people who aren’t doing the right thing that we do have these cameras in place and they will be held accountable.”

As Michael Palahach commutes to work in Naples, he hopes other agencies can follow suit, making Southwest Florida safer overall.

“It would be even better if other law-enforcement communities can monitor area from where the criminal came,” Palahach said. “Let’s say from Miami to Naples or from Tampa to Naples. I think I’d be good for the community.”

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