Conn. Ferry Uses License Plate Reader to Boost Security

Aug. 22--BRIDGEPORT -- An electronic device designed to read license plate numbers will be installed at the Bridgeport ferry terminal.

The security equipment will be purchased with the help of a $108,750 federal grant.

Joseph Riccio, executive director of the Bridgeport Port Authority, said that the license plate reader, which uses character recognition software, is part of a multi-pronged effort to improve security at the ferry terminal off Water Street and Bridgeport Harbor.

The funds will also be used to perform a harbor vulnerability assessment study to determine any weak points in the area that might exist.

"We should have that equipment in place in three to six months," said Riccio. "We're not going to use it to check every car -- it's only for periods of heightened security."

The money, announced Tuesday by U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-4, is one in a series of federal grants from the Department of Homeland Security that aim to beef up security at both the terminal and the harbor.

Riccio said the port authority earlier received $67,000 that's being used to train local law-enforcement personnel in skills adapted for the waterfront.

A total of $110 million in federal money was allocated to ports nationwide as part of this round of grants, according to Shays' spokesman John Cardarelli.

Two grants that were much larger were previously awarded to the Bridgeport Port Authority by DHS, Riccio said. A grant of $3.1 million was used to purchase a police boat and to install security fencing and video surveillance gear. A later grant of $1.2 million was used to purchase equipment -- which is still on order -- to detect improvised explosive devices, as well as radioactive material.

"That equipment should be here in three to five months, too," Riccio said, adding that the IED detector is more sophisticated than the license plate reader.

"The average person who uses the ferry probably doesn't notice it, but the facility is a good deal more secure than it used to be," Riccio said.

Copyright (c) 2007, Connecticut Post, Bridgeport Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.