License Plate Readers Installed at Entrances/Exits to South Baltimore Peninsula

| December 6, 2023 | 0 Comments

Riverside Neighborhood Association press release:

New automated license plate readers (ALPR) are now installed and operating at primary roads leaving the communities located on the South Baltimore peninsula, including Locust Point, Riverside, Federal Hill, and portions of South Baltimore. The electronic camera system provides the Baltimore Police Department with vital, real-time data to track vehicles reported stolen, associated with an outstanding warrant, or reported seen at the scene of a crime. A number of community leaders and City and State officials were on hand today to mark the expansion of a network of ALPRs that take advantage of the natural boundaries of the peninsula which channel traffic through key locations.

Automated license plate readers are high-speed, computer-controlled camera systems that automatically capture all license plate numbers that pass through the covered area, including the time and date. The data includes a photograph of the vehicle license plate. If the plate of a vehicle that is sought by police is detected, officers in the vicinity can be notified immediately.

The most recent ALPR installation was completed on Nov. 8 at the intersection of Key Highway and Lawrence St. in Riverside, the primary access to Fort Ave. Others are located near the Hanover St. bridge and at Key Highway and Light St. The equipment was purchased through a grant sought by and awarded to the Riverside Neighborhood Association (RNA), South Baltimore Neighborhood Association (SBNA), Federal Hill Neighborhood Association (FHNA), and Federal Hill Mainstreet (FHMS) from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development earlier this year. Support for the grants was provided by members of Maryland Legislative District 46, including Senate President Bill Ferguson and Delegates Luke Clippinger, Robbyn Lewis, and Mark Edelson. City Councilman Eric Costello, whose 11th District currently includes the peninsula communities, joined the group along with Baltimore City Sheriff and former South Baltimore Neighborhood Association president Sam Cogen.

Riverside Neighborhood Association president Rich Badmington credited fellow association Board member Jeff Dewberry for working with other leaders to take the lead on the grant process and installation.

“There’s a reason our community is one of the safest in Baltimore,” said Badmington. “It starts with residents watching out for themselves and their neighbors and supporting police. This technology is another important step in keeping us safe and secure.”

Officials note that the state requires all vehicles to display a license plate and that data generated from these readers is managed directly by the Baltimore City Police Department, and not a third party private company. The Maryland State Police began using ALPRs in 2004, and in 2022, there were more than 320 in Maryland.

Brad O’Brien’s comments from today’s press conference. O’Brien is the Public Safety Chair for Federal Hill Neighborhood Association and Baltimore Police Department’s Southern District’s Community Relations Council President: 

I serve in two volunteer roles that are applicable to what we are discussing today. First, as the Public Safety Leader for the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association. And I serve as the BPD Southern District’s Community Relations Council President. Serving in these roles over the past couple of years has provided me with connections to some amazing neighbors as well as relationships with our elected representatives present today.

It may feel unusual to have a press event recognizing the installation of hardware like these license plate reader cameras, but the cameras aren’t the only thing we should recognize today. We also want to recognize what a community can accomplish when it works together to identify sensible  and sustainable solutions that address ongoing issues.

The cameras that have been installed in our community are the result of the dedicated work of volunteers from multiple neighborhoods on the peninsula. Each of these neighbors have a story or an experience that led them to get engaged in the effort to address public safety issues in the community. This group of neighbors represent people who refuse to accept the current public safety reality as being an acceptable norm. In addition to all they do in their work, families, and academic lives they also give their time as volunteers to make their community better for everyone!

  • Our team of volunteers know that BPD is understaffed
  • Our team of volunteers know that there have been over 10,000 stolen automobiles in Baltimore City this year.
  • Our team of volunteers know the fear and terror that comes from people driving around in stolen vehicles committing several violent crimes in  short periods of time.
  • However, in all of our efforts no one presented us with a sensible and sustainable solution to these realities so our team of volunteers took it upon ourselves to develop one on our own.

We all knew that public safety is everyone’s #1 concern.

We all knew that we shouldn’t accept this reality as normal just because we live in a city.

We all knew that there had to be a solution so we worked together to find one.

That is why we were thankful to learn about the Community Safety Works grant from the State of Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.

Our team recognized that because of the unique geographic nature of the peninsula we could serve our community by getting LPRs installed at the points of entry/exit. Our hope was that by creating this digital boundary, BPD could be alerted any time a stolen vehicle entered or exited the community. Our hope is that this will enable BPD to be proactive so that the amount of time a stolen vehicle can roam around our community is substantially decreased.

Having 3 neighborhood groups apply for the Community Safety Works grant funding and seeking to utilize that funding to begin this process was simply the first step. Now that we have been successful and have a better understanding of the process, our hope is that other community associations and nonprofits on the peninsula will join us in applying for funds in the next cycle, which should open in the immediate future. Although we have been able to cover some key intersections of the community, we believe we could finish the task if other groups would join us and follow our lead.

These new LPRs should be seen as one piece of a larger, more holistic public safety strategy that we as volunteers are building together. Cameras will not stop people from stealing cars but what they should do is: alert BPD when a stolen vehicle crosses the boundary so that officers can be proactive in locating the vehicle. This will hopefully have a substantial impact on the amount of time criminals can spend terrorizing our neighbors.

If these cameras can alert local BPD post officers quickly enough to stop the patterns from continuing, it will be a great benefit to the community. If these cameras can alert BPD detectives to the direction that a neighbor’s stolen car left the community, it will be a huge step in seeking to quickly recover that car.

Ultimately, it is our hope that BPD will build on our effort. That they will monitor, maintain, and manage these cameras diligently. And that in addition to the new BCIC room coming online in the Southern in the near future, our hope is that this hardware proves to be force multipliers. As residents we view this as one piece of a larger Community Policing strategy.

My hope is that Governor Moore, Senate President Ferguson, and our Delegates will work together to find a way to continue and even increase funding for these grants so that communities all across the city can continue to benefit.

I want to say thank you to all the volunteers who are actively engaged in public safety efforts here in the community. Our neighbors are the ones with the ideas and the experiences to help us identify solutions at a grass-roots level.

It is a joy to work alongside amazing people who care for their neighbors like they were family. Especially those who display great courage by taking their experience as a victim and using it as a catalyst to help others.

These community members are the ones worthy of being celebrated today. Thank you.

Brad O’Brien, Sheriff Sam Cogen, Deputy Commissioner Monique Brown, State’s Attorney Ivan Bates, Richards Badmington, Delegate Mark Edelson, Councilman Eric Costello, Jeff Dewberry 

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Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, father of three, amateur pizza chef, skateboarder, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at Kevin@InceptMM.com and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
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