Charleston police seek to install more license plate readers

Surveillance aimed at combating West Ashley crime

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The Charleston Police Department is planning to target crime in West Ashley with the addition of three license plate readers that would be installed on the northbound lanes of the Cosgrove Bridge to help catch criminals fleeing into neighboring municipalities.

The department is applying for funding for surveillance equipment through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) — a program through the Bureau of Justice Assistance that aids law enforcement agencies.

License plate readers monitoring a highway in Florida - FLICKR USER DIVERSEY
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  • License plate readers monitoring a highway in Florida
According to a report put before City Council during their June meeting, statistics show that the majority of crimes committed in West Ashley are carried out by those with addresses outside the city of Charleston. The police department hopes that by monitoring the license plates on vehicles exiting West Ashley officers can catch those leaving the area, as well as use time stamps as evidence.

Surveillance devices have been in place in Charleston for a few years now. The city currently has these surveillance devices, known as Automated Licence Plate Readers (ALPR), in three locations: East Bay Street, Highway 17, and I-526, according to the report.

Major growth in West Ashley is cited as one of the biggest reasons for the need of additional cameras. The city grew 30 percent between 2010 and 2013, the report states, and the police department claims that growth has lead to changes in crime culture around the city.

The report also claims that much of the city’s new crime takes place in West Ashley. According to the report, 30 percent of robberies, 37 percent of aggravated assaults, and 40 percent of all non-violent crimes in the city last year occurred in West Ashley. The city is arguing that these numbers make a case for greater surveillance of the area.

The cost of the project is estimated at $31,980, with $25,898 of the total amount coming from the grant request.


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