Fulton County eyes safety initiative

JOHNSTOWN – Fulton County government this summer will launch a new major public safety initiative for 2015 – part of a three-pronged approach to improving the county.

The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office wants to have the county allocate a $54,450 capital project to purchase license plates readers for 2015 to begin the initiative.

License plate readers are used by law enforcement to optically scan vehicle license plates. Using fixed-position cameras on highways or mobile cameras in patrol cars, the system identifies the plate and matches it against a database of stolen and uninsured vehicles, as well as vehicles registered to drivers with suspended licenses.

County Administrative Officer Jon Stead said Thursday he briefed the Board of Supervisors’ Finance Committee last week about the initiative, which county residents will hear more about in coming months.

“We need to make sure our community is safe,” Stead said.

He said a safe county will be a more financially stable county.

Stead said the newest public safety initiative will be the third leg of Fulton County government’s “strategic plan” that was launched a few years ago. The first initiative was a “budget survival plan” in the late 2000s. That featured some layoffs, selling the county’s former residential health care facility to a private entity, and transferring county mental health services to a private entity.

The second component of the county’s strategic plan, Stead said, has been the ongoing “Jump Start: Fulton County” initiative. This program involves several efforts to create jobs and boost revenue in the county, he said. “Jump Start” involves the SMART Waters project, Tryon redevelopment project, regional branding project, proposed regional business park, and identifying shovel-ready industrial sites of 200 or more acres.

Stead said the third component involves strengthening public safety and the county is asking District Attorney Louise Sira to be involved. He said there will be a “new neighborhood plan” that will involve Sira this summer making a “major budget proposal” for 2015. He said that proposal will not be announced at this time. He said the county will be working closer with local police agencies.

He said license plate readers have been known to help solve more crimes.

Sira said license plate readers used in the county have been “very effective” for vehicle and traffic reasons, but also useful in helping nab suspect and solving crimes such as burglaries and drug cases.

Sira’s office wants the county to allocate a $54,450 capital project for 2015 to purchase three license plate readers for the county’s three main law enforcement agencies.

The reader systems would be purchased for the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department and the Gloversville Police Department, which each already have the equipment, and the Johnstown Police Department.

Sira made the request to the Public Safety Committee last week. The capital project request will go before the Capital Projects Committee, which meets at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at the County Office Building. Sira requested permission to purchase three readers, which cost $18,150 apiece for a total cost of $54,450.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.