The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

December 8, 2013

A good read for city police

Technology will help catch bad guys


Editor

JOHNSTOWN — The streets of Johns-town just became a little more dangerous place to be – if you’re a criminal.

That’s because the Johnstown Police Department now has an automatic license plate reader that alerts officers if a passing car is registered to a fugitive.

A camera atop the police car captures an image of the license plate, sends it to a database and almost instantaneously provides information on a laptop computer. It can spit out a wide range of information, from expired registrations to warnings about violent criminals on the run from the law.

Officer Erin Kabler demonstrated the new equipment for local leaders and Tribune-Democrat reporter Dave Sutor recently. Kabler said that the system allows him to scan more than 1,000 license plates during a shift as opposed to the few dozen that he might be able to process on his own.

“This is maximizing my productivity on the street,” Kabler said.

That’s important,

especially as officers try to get a handle on the drug-related crime that has plagued our city recently. We hope that the license plate reader will help Kabler and fellow officers take criminals off the street.

Of course, such technology comes at a price, both figurative and literal. The reader costs $20,000 and would have been out of the budget for the financially-strapped city. That’s where private businesses stepped in and did something for the common good.

We applaud JWF Industries, Concurrent Technologies Corp., Employers Medical Access Partnership, 1st Summit Bank, Laurel Holdings, AmeriServ Financial and the anonymous donor who, through the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies, paid for the reader. Their efforts to bring the equipment to Johnstown truly are for the good of the community.

“It’s part of economic development in a way,” said Glenn Wilson, president and CEO at Ameri-Serv Financial. “Because, if you don’t have a safe city, you don’t have people that are either going to want to work here or live here.”

The figurative cost of such technology comes in terms of privacy. Some will argue that scanning each license plate and checking for scofflaws is a violation of privacy, but we side with City Manager Kristen Denne on that debate.

“A license plate is actually the property of the state of Pennsylvania,” she said. “It’s on the outside of your car. I don’t feel it’s an infringement on privacy. All of the operators that will be utilizing this particular car, this technology will be specially trained and also will be following procedures and protocol on that.”

We hope that area residents rest easier knowing that local police are doing everything they can to catch criminals.

And we hope that the criminals will be a lot more worried about making their homes and

plying their trades in

Johnstown.