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Use plate readers responsibly

The Weirton Police Department is in the process of obtaining a new tool in its efforts to protect and serve residents and the community.

During a meeting Jan. 11, city council approved the acceptance of a grant from the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management which, combined with a local match, will allow for the purchase of three license plate readers.

The devices will be installed into three of the city’s cruisers, and, while in use, can actively scan any license plate within their view. If the license number comes up as being connected to an active case, it will alert the officer.

According to Police Chief W. Charles Kush, the goal is to focus on criminal and felony investigations, with the alerts set to include information on active warrants and searches from law enforcement agencies across the country, but not minor infractions such as traffic tickets.

If a car parked along Main Street belongs to a known drug dealer, for example, officers would be notified. An alert would not be issued, though, if the car is owned by your grandmother who was cited for mistakenly parking in a fire lane.

In that regard, these readers can serve as a great addition to the city’s crime-fighting arsenal, with the hope of continuing to have Weirton ranked among the safest cities. With anything, though, there is a need to be cautious and vigilant against misuse.

We’re not aware of any improper use of these tools locally, and, according to Kush, several area departments have been using them for some time. That includes the sheriff’s departments in both Hancock and Brooke counties, the Wheeling Police Department and the West Virginia State Police where Kush spent much of his career.

That doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened elsewhere, and it will be up to the officers of the Weirton Police Department and the city administration, now and in the future, to ensure the capabilities of these devices are not abused.

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