MBPD asks for funds to put license plate readers at city entrances

MBPD asks for funds to put license plate readers at city entrances

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF NEWS) - By the end of the month, more than 800 surveillance cameras will be watching you from above the streets of Myrtle Beach. But the police department wants to add another tool to that mix, a stationary camera to capture your license plate as you drive in and out of the city.

Officials believe license plate readers could help deter crime.

"We want people who may think about coming to Myrtle Beach with bad intentions to know that's not a good idea," Public Information Director Mark Kruea said. "You're going to be recorded. We are looking out for you. We're taking advantage of technology."

The technology would record vehicles passing through the entrances to the city, notifying officers if a vehicle related to a criminal case or missing persons case is captured on camera.

"We have one that's mobile right now, that's mounted on the trunk of a police car," Kruea said. "But we're looking at stationary license plates readers on the major entrances into the city that would catch the stolen car, that would catch the fugitive from justice who is trying to escape to Myrtle Beach."

But with the advances in technology, new questions surface about how to protect people's privacy.

In a report from the International Association of Chiefs of Police from 2009, experts looked at these concerns, describing the "potential chilling effects" these devices could have on your privacy.

The report said, unlike other forms of public surveillance, license plate readers have the "potential to reveal to the government individuals' driving habits."

To prevent that though, the report recommends that data gathered from these cameras be "limited to criminal conduct or activity."

"Technology has opened a lot of doors, but it also needs to have some questions answered as far as privacy from the license plate readers," Kruea said. "I don't think that's something people need to worry about. What you cell phone company knows, what Google knows about you, is a whole lot more than what we would gather from that."

The project is still in the planning stages. Myrtle Beach Police Department officials are suppose to bring more specifics on the project including just how much it would cost to council members  on January 12.

Copyright 2016 WMBF News. All rights reserved.