Beacon Installs License-Plate Readers

Cameras to record vehicle data at entries to city

The City of Beacon is installing license-plate reading cameras at four locations entering the city, with three of the cameras likely to be operational by next week. 

The City Council last month approved spending $21,400 on a two-year agreement with the Flock Group, an Atlanta-based firm, for the solar-powered license plate readers (LPRs). 

Police Chief Sands Frost said Wednesday (Feb. 15) that the cameras, which will record plate data but not drivers’ faces or other information, will be installed on utility poles on Route 52, northbound and southbound Route 9D and Washington Avenue. Three of the cameras are up now and being tested by Flock; the fourth will be installed once Central Hudson approves the location, Frost said. 

According to the chief, the cameras will help police identify suspect vehicles. For example, if the police have a description of a vehicle or a partial license plate, they can search data recorded by the LPRs. Once they get a plate number, it can be fed into a state database to identify the owner of the car. 

“It gives you a direction to go in,” Frost said. 

The recorded footage will only be used to identify suspect vehicles, he said. “There’s no want to know or the manpower” to cull the footage for any other information, Frost said. 

Beacon City Administrator Chris White told the council last month that data recorded by the Flock cameras will be deleted every 30 days “unless we have some circumstance that causes us to download” it, such as an active police investigation.

Cold Spring police installed LPRs near three entry points to the village in 2021 following a protracted discussion by members of the Putnam County Legislature over how the camera data would be used. The police faced further pushback from residents who felt the devices were an invasion of privacy, but Larry Burke, the officer-in-charge, said this week that the cameras had more than once helped Putnam County sheriff’s deputies track vehicles that had been stolen from nearby municipalities. 

“It’s a tool that’s used to give us information more than anything else,” he said. 

In 2012, the New York Civil Liberties Union took issue with LPR devices affixed to Beacon patrol cars. Between 2012 and 2014, the NYCLU sent Freedom of Information Law requests to more than 70 municipalities in New York State to better understand their use of LPRs. 

The organization analyzed data from the Beacon police and, after reviewing a week’s worth of license plate readings for one vehicle, noted that LPRs captured the car’s location 24 times over that period. 

“Even this small piece of information paints a detailed portrait of the car owner’s comings and goings, including the nights that the driver parked on Main Street and likely spent the night nearby,” an NYCLU report said. 

According to the report, “this one example shows the potential to collect embarrassing information, even though the driver did nothing wrong as far as we can tell” because the car’s license plate did not match any listed as a “plate of interest.” 

Beacon Det. Sgt. Jason Johnson said on Thursday that the patrol officer likely drove Main Street multiple times during that week, passing the parked vehicle frequently. There is only one Beacon patrol car currently equipped with an LPR, Johnson said.  

2 thoughts on “Beacon Installs License-Plate Readers

  1. Honestly, what about the Fourth Amendment? We don’t have rights anymore? Anytime something like this happens, we are told it’s for the common good — eroding away our rights and freedoms. For what? Anybody you arrest is released. Where does the collection of information go?

    Insane. You can smoke weed walking down Main Street, rob a store and walk away with under $1,000 and not worry. But drive into Beacon and they know where you are.

    I really want to know who thought this was a good idea, and why it’s fair and just. We don’t need Big Brother in every aspect of our lives. If you are not going to process the petty crimes or quality-of-life issues, what right do you have to our driving habits, and the comings and goings of the citizen? Or maybe that’s the plan.

    So many other issues need attention; this one is just wrong. We closed prisons just to create a different type of incarceration — of a once-free society -— to collect an unpaid parking ticket. You are already a prisoner. They just haven’t told you yet.

    • I agree with you 100 percent. There is no point to having these readers in such a small city as Beacon. I live in Beacon and this is an outrage perpetrated by the current administration. These readers need to sent back. There should have been a referendum for something as important as this. The current administration in Beacon has proven itself to be illegitimate. Three murders in two years. People are going hungry and can’t afford a dozen eggs or to heat their homes. Now the city is contact-tracing every vehicle that enters and leaves. It is a bully tactic and should be stopped before more time goes by.

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