Fla. town's cameras catch thieves

Nov. 21, 2012 at 5:19 PM
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LIGHTHOUSE POINT, Fla., Nov. 21 (UPI) -- Cameras aimed at vehicle license plates in a small upmarket Florida town have helped retrieve $500,000 in stolen valuables, police say.

Lighthouse Point in Palm Beach County installed the plate-recognition system three years ago. The city council recently approved adding 18 cameras by January to the 26 now in operation, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.

The most recent arrest occurred Saturday when a man driving a car reported stolen in Miami parked at a CVS pharmacy in Lighthouse Point, Police Chief Ray Licata said.

Earlier this month, a man was charged with robbing a nearby bank. Licata said it was the Lighthouse Point cameras, which identified the license plate numbers when the man drove through town en route to the robbery, that were crucial to the arrest, although the man and his car had also been picked up by cameras at the bank and at a store.

"This guy robs a bank and 2 hours later we get him?" Mayor Fred Schorr asked. "Can you imagine if we did not have those cameras?"

Licata said the cameras have also helped apprehend a former tenant who stole appliances from a Lighthouse Point property owner, a resident who conspired with a neighbor to fake a car theft to defraud her insurance company and the driver of a stolen pickup truck involved in a number of thefts.

Other Florida police departments are now considering installing plate-recognition cameras. Sue Nelson, a local real estate agent, said she uses them to convince prospects to buy in Lighthouse Point, where recent sales have ranged from $250,000 up to $9 million for large waterfront properties.

"The cameras give you that much more security," she said. "Everyone has been thrilled with the fact that they are there. I've never heard one negative comment."

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