The Buffalo Police Department acknowledged Tuesday that it was in error when it installed license plate readers without the Common Council’s knowledge.
Nevertheless, Council members – after publicly questioning a police representative – said they are not opposed to the technology and allowed the department to put up even more.
The Buffalo News reported in October that the city had quietly installed the readers on traffic signal poles in the Broadway and Bailey Avenue intersection but had not shared with the Council that the devices were going up or how the license plate information would be used.
“That was our error,” Police Capt. Mark Makowski told lawmakers in a premeeting caucus Tuesday. “We did not realize from our end it needed Council approval.”
Officials say the equipment is meant to catch criminals committing serious offenses, not traffic violators, and was paid for with a federal grant. The original grant was for a different kind of technology, but the city changed course and got federal approval that the money be used instead for license plate readers. However, the department did not notify the Council of the change. Grants accepted by the city come before the Council for approval.
The readers do not have the capability to issue tickets when motorists run red lights and are not meant to alert police to drivers who have let their insurance lapse, according to the Police Department.
“This is to gather data to help us solve serious violent crimes in the area,” Makowski said.
Council members spoke in favor of the license plate readers and voted Tuesday to accept another grant, for $125,000 from the state, which will pay for them to be installed in the Kensington Avenue-Bailey intersection on the border of the University and Masten districts.