More license plate readers bound for North Shore police departments with $1.05M grant

Darwin Yanes

October 19, 2022

Originally published in Newsday on October 19, 2022.

Seven North Shore police departments in Nassau County have each received a $150,000 state grant to purchase license plate readers, which local officials said will help increase public safety and reduce auto thefts.

The funding will go to the Kensington, Kings Point, Lake Success, Great Neck Estates, Port Washington, Sands Point and Old Westbury police departments. 

“At a time when we are seeing heightened crime on the North Shore, particularly car thefts, it’s important that our law enforcement have all the tools they need to fight crime and catch criminals,” State Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-North Hills), who secured the funding, said in a statement. “This funding will allow smaller police departments in our community to invest in high-tech solutions that will help keep our communities safe.”

The installation of license plate readers is becoming more frequent on Long Island, as authorities look for alternative ways to fight crime. Earlier this month, state officials announced that 22 new license plate readers will be installed next year along the Southern State Parkway, and in August, Suffolk officials announced the deployment of 70 new license plate readers throughout the Third Precinct, which includes Bay Shore, Brentwood, Central Islip, Islip, East Islip, West Islip and Islip Terrace.

According to data from the New York State website, Nassau County recorded 621 auto thefts in 2021; 702 in 2020; and 639 in 2019.

Old Westbury Police Chief Robert Glaser, who leads a department of 26 officers, said there is already a network of strategically placed license plate readers around the 8.5-mile perimeter of the village. The grant, he said, will supplement that equipment and help the police keep up with modern technology.

“We plan on taking advantage of the latest technology to help us prevent and detect crime,” Glaser said.

The village of nearly 4,300 residents, according to the most recent census data, has had 11 auto thefts this year, compared to just four in 2021 and six in 2020, the chief said.

Glaser said removing key fobs from a vehicle and making sure doors are locked are two critical tips he gives residents to avoid thefts.

“We’re doing whatever we can to get the word out and we believe it has made a difference,” he said.

About 9 miles away, in Great Neck Estates, Mayor William D. Warner said the village has also seen an increase within the past few years in vehicle thefts. 

“Many of the bad actors come in stolen cars to steal our cars,” he said. “If we get license plate readers, which will identify those stolen cars as they hit the village limits, we can then act upon that and get to them before they do anything wrong.”

Great Neck Estates recorded five auto thefts in 2021 and three each in 2020 and 2019, according to state data.

Warner said a license plate reader in a police vehicle can cost about $10,000 to $12,000 per unit, including the purchase and installation cost. He said the stationary units, which would be spread around the village, could cost more given that officers would have to monitor those readers. The village’s police force consists of 14 officers, two dispatchers and the chief.

The village has one active reader and will install four more. Warner said the village will buy more units with the grant funding, but will have to issue a request for proposal beforehand.

“To me the key here is that we will be able to prevent [crime] as well as to investigate,” Warner said.