Ulster lawmakers reserve decision on license plate recognition system

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KINGSTON – Ulster County legislators are concerned regarding the privacy implications of the county sheriff’s office as they evaluate a contract amendment.

Tuesday evening, a contract increase of $29,679 for NDI was brought before the legislature’s Ways and Means Committee.

NDI would provide the sheriff’s office with license plate recognition systems and the accompanying software, which would gather real-time data on motorists. This data would be stored with NDI, not the sheriff’s office and the amount of time this data would remain with NDI is uncertain.

Legislator Tracey Bartels said she has first-hand knowledge that a single automobile could be tagged hundreds of times within a month and that the associated data stays in the system for at least that amount of time. She said that although the technology is valuable, having a private company hold motorists’ data is precarious and there needs to be safeguards in the contract to address privacy before supporting the contract amendment.

“I do know that these are valuable law enforcement tools in certain circumstances, but I think that the data has to be protected,” said Bartels. “In terms of the thousands of hits that we get on these, I want to know that they’re not saving them for months and months because we head into very dangerous territory.”

Law Enforcement and Public Safety Committee Chairwoman Eve Walter said state policymakers have taken notice of this and are currently creating regulations for this type of data use.

“Apparently DCJS of New York State is coming up with a statement on how the data should be held and stored and used and disposed of and in what time period. The Sheriff has assured that he will adopt that policy,” said Walter.

Legislators Ken Ronk and Dave Donaldson respectively also voiced concerns regarding the sheriff’s office not storing the data and the potential for NDI to sell data. 

The resolution was tabled until the Ways and Means Committee’s meeting next week. In the interim, legislators will evaluate the NDI contract and are inviting the sheriff to speak to those concerns.