An $80,000 crime-fighting tool in Clarksville is now little more than scrap metal.
In 2010, the Clarksville Police Department equipped four traffic patrol cars with a series of cameras mounted on their roofs. The cameras read license plates and then transmit the information to computers, which search for things like Amber Alerts, bulletins for wanted suspects and stolen cars.
The equipment worked for about a year, until the California company that the police department bought everything from closed, no longer supporting the required software.
Officer Bill Van Beber has four cameras mounted on his car, but they aren't recording anymore. The software has since been deleted from his laptop computer.
"When it went out, it just went out," Van Beber said.
The police department said the problem was beyond its control.
"Yeah, I mean, it was a good tool, but we can't control a company going out of business," said Sgt. Charles Gill, spokesman for the Clarksville Police Department.
The city used money collected from red-light traffic tickets to buy the hardware and software from a company called PlateScan, based in Newport Beach, CA.
PlateScan closed in 2011, leaving its customers scrambling for another company to support the products and software.
"We're currently looking for a company with a viable solution to get them working again," said Gill.
The good news is that Clarksville did not use PlateScan's servers to store the license plate information it had collected.
That is a problem in San Jose, CA, according to published reports, because San Jose stored its information on Platescan's servers.
The future of that stored information is now in question, raising concerns about who owns the potentially private information and how it might be used in the future.
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