The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

November 25, 2013

Police department using license plate reader

JOHNSTOWN — Officer Erin Kabler demonstrated the Johnstown Police Department’s new automatic license plate reader for only about 10 minutes on Monday afternoon.

But even within that brief time period, the system sent out two alerts.

A pair of vehicles with expired registrations passed City Hall while Kabler was showing some local political figures and members of the business community how the system works. It happened so unexpectedly that the officer once interrupted his own presentation by interjecting, “There’s an alert right there. That car that just went by is expired,” and pointing to a notification on a computer screen.

The automobile passed by a second or two earlier.

A camera atop the police car captured an image of the license plate, sent it to a database and almost instantaneously provided the information to a laptop computer. The reader can provide police officers a variety of information, ranging from mundane notices about expired registrations to warnings about wanted violent criminals.

It can scan more than 1,000 license plates during a shift, according to Kabler, as opposed to the few dozen he might be able to process manually.

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

Late last week, the system picked up the plate of an out-of-town driver with a suspended license in a gas station parking lot. Kabler’s ensuing investigation led to the discovery of heroin in the vehicle. It was the first local arrest credited to the ALPR. “That’s a car that I normally would not have even looked at,” Kabler said.

Funding for the $20,000 system was provided by JWF Industries, Concurrent Technologies Corp., Employers Medical Access Partnership, 1st Summit Bank, an anonymous donor through the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies, Laurel Holdings and AmeriServ Financial.

“We think this is just the first step,” said Edward Sheehan, CTC’s president and CEO. “We came together to look at what are some things the business community can do to help work with the city and its leadership. Through this effort, we’ve now been able to accomplish this with great results already. We see the possibility and the potential to do other things like this.”

Earlier this year, the ad hoc Johnstown Crime and Violence Commission recommended increased involvement from the business community as a way to address the city’s crime problem, which is directly linked to a growing heroin trade, according to the final report.

“I think the dramatic thing that we learned through the whole process of working with the city is how bad the drug trafficking problem is in this region,” said Bill Polacek, president and CEO of JWF Industries.

“It’s not a city problem or Richland or just Westmont or Conemaugh Township, it’s a regional problem. It’s scary if you see the statistics. This is a big deal. It affects all of us. It affects all of our lives. It affects the future of this region.”

Glenn Wilson, president and CEO at AmeriServ Financial, sees the unit as something that can help improve the entire community.

“It’s part of economic development in a way,” Wilson said. “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 system can scan any license plate – whether on the vehicle of a criminal or law-abiding citizen – that passes in front of the cameras.

“A license plate is actually the property of the state of Pennsylvania,” said City Manager Kristen Denne.

“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.”

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • Denne, Williams & Stanton Records hearing scheduled

    A Cambria County judge will consider complaints filed by two Johnstown residents seeking documents related to the city’s municipal waste water operation at hearing at the end of this month.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sen. Bob Casey Casey targets heroin

    The heroin trade has brought addiction, death, violence and theft to Johnstown and other Pennsylvania communities.
    Figuring out how to deal with those issues is difficult for local, state and federal officials.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Drive-in to open with high-tech projector

    Drive-in movie theaters and the term “state of the art” seldom share the same sentence.
    But that will soon be the case for the Silver Drive-In, it’s owner said. The Scalp Avenue site, often marketed as a nostalgic summer night escape, soon will boast a high-end projector capable of displaying the latest and greatest blockbusters in razor sharp high-definition, theater owner Rick Rosco said.

    April 18, 2014

  • Sheetz work underway

    Earthmoving is underway at Richland Town Centre for a nearly 6,500-square-foot Sheetz store.
    And the real estate broker marketing the land says a 3,000-square-foot retail building will be built next door.

    April 18, 2014

  • Smith, Shakir Mosi Police seize heroin, money in Prospect

    Johnstown police reported that several bricks of heroin, along with $4,000 in cash and a handgun, were discovered in the city's Prospect neighborhood around 4 a.m. Friday. An arrest warrant has been issued for the man be­lieved to be the owner or renter of the two homes raided.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Comedy night targets serious problem

    Animal advocates are using comedy to take aim at a serious problem.
    The third annual Funny Fundraiser to benefit the Nardecchia Spay and Neuter Fund will be held at 8 p.m. May 16 at Ace’s, 316 Chestnut St. in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.

    April 18, 2014

  • Local briefs 4/19/2014

    April 18, 2014

  • Early morning police raid in Prospect area leads to arrest warrant

    Johnstown police reported that several bricks of heroin, along with $4,000 in cash and a handgun, were discovered in the city's Prospect neighborhood around 4 a.m. this morning.

    April 18, 2014

  • Home is Where The Tribune-Democrat is Delivered!

    April 18, 2014

  • new councilman Judge fills City Council vacancy

    A lifelong Johnstown resident who has never sought election to public office was named Thursday to fill the vacancy on City Council.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo


Do you think that Jack Williams will get the 270 signatures from city residents needed in order to have a referendum placed on a municipal ballot to have the city's pressure test mandate repealed?

I'm not sure
     View Results
House Ads