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Donation to buy license plate reader

Town of Tonawanda police are getting one of those high-tech license plate readers for traffic enforcement, and motorists will have a generous resident to thank -- or blame.

This week, Police Chief Anthony J. Palombo asked the Town Board to authorize the $22,425 purchase. However, it won't cost the town a dime.

A check covering the cost has already been written by James C. McNeilly.

"He saw an article in one of the newspapers about the plate reader that the Village of Kenmore just got through some sort of a grant," Palombo said Wednesday. After talking it over with his wife, Karen, who works in Town Court, McNeilly made his offer.

He said: " 'I want to buy this for you guys,' " Palombo recalled. "He showed up an hour later with a check."

McNeilly could not be reached to comment Wednesday.

Used in conjunction with the computers in police cars, infrared cameras read the license plates of vehicles in up to four lanes of traffic -- coming and going. Plate numbers are checked against a database of motor vehicle information, and officers can respond immediately to a "hit."

The results can be prolific.

Between last September and December, Buffalo police officers scanned the plates of more than 50,000 cars at checkpoints. They issued 2,119 vehicle and traffic tickets, 538 misdemeanor summonses, impounded 501 vehicles and made a handful of arrests.

Previously, the Town of Tonawanda has teamed up with officers from Kenmore and the State Police, which has several plate readers, for traffic enforcement blitzes.

Town police already had applied for a state grant for two plate readers and would buy another if money is awarded, Palombo said.

And that's the only way town police would be able to get them in the short-term.

"If we had not received this donation we would not be purchasing that equipment," Town Supervisor Ronald H. Moline said Wednesday.

Moline called the donation "a reflection on the standing of the Police Department in the community. We get tremendous support."

The supervisor recalled a similarly sized donation last year to the town's paramedic foundation.
The donor in that case was a longtime resident of the town whose parents had lived there all of their lives, Paramedic Supervisor Carla E. Bevilacqua said.

The money, which was donated through the James V. Ryan Paramedic Foundation, helped support the cost of the emergency response trailer.

e-mail: jhabuda@buffnews.com

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