Big changes could be on the way for the city of Lake Worth when it comes to fighting crime.
On Tuesday night, city commissioners will vote on installing license plate readers throughout the city as well as installing more cameras throughout the city to enhance safety.
The goal is to add the license plate readers to every exit and entrance to the city. Delray Beach, Boynton Beach, West Palm Beach and Riviera Beach are already using this technology and there's a gap here in Lake Worth the city wants to close.
“I think it will be a huge game changer," said city commissioner Omari Hardy.
Hardy said they noticed that criminals would steal cars from other cities and then enter Lake Worth to commit crimes.
"Then they leave Lake Worth with these stolen vehicles. So if we can catch them before they commit a crime and gets caught on the license plate readers, we can stop crime before it happens in the city," he said.
The city is planning on purchasing 22 plate readers.
“So if someone has a stolen vehicle to enter the city and commit a crimes, we’ll be able to catch them pretty quickly," he said. "I think this is going to help us keep tabs on the criminals that are unfortunately moving around in and out in the city of Lake Worth."
Justin Olive, who runs the Common Grounds coffee shop, has watched his business grow in downtown Lake Worth.
“I love this city. It’s been a great home for us for the past 4 years," he said.
He said he's also watched a change in crime over the years.
“I’ve seen a big difference with the crime since PBSO has come in," he said. "Crime is something that Lake Worth has battled, just like many other places."
Olive said he's on board with the city moving forward on the plate readers.
“If that means it can stop more bad guys and could stop more criminals from finding a safe place in Lake Worth, I think it’s a very positive thing," he said. “Knowing that other cities have it and we don’t, I think it would be crucial for us that we’re being consistent throughout the county.
In addition to the plate readers, commissioners are also hoping to buy more surveillance cameras to key parts of the city, such as alleys and neighborhoods.
“So rather than having 20 officers throughout the city actively patrolling, we can have 20 cameras that can tilt, pan, zoom in and out — and have one officer in an office monitoring those cameras all day everyday," said Hardy. "That's the way we're using our resources here. We want to multiply the effect of PBSO in the city and we think this will go a long way towards doing that."
Residents we spoke to are also on board with the changes.
“I think it’s worthwhile, it’s a more efficient use of dollars rather than have officers all over the place," said Mike French. “Doing everything we can is definitely helpful.”
Hardy had this to say for residents who are concerned about crime in the city.
"The people who are concerned about crime in the city, we're going to give them a reason to feel safer tomorrow night when we vote on license plate readers and additional cameras. They have a reason to feel safer after we take this vote," he said.
The cost of the 22 license plate readers is $249,020. The cost of the additional surveillance cameras is $82,992. The total cost for all of the cameras is $332,012, money that would be pulled from Palm Beach County penny sales tax passed by voters in 2016.
If the vote passes Tuesday night, we could see the license plate readers and new cameras installed in a matter of months.