March 22, 2007 As new technologies become available to law enforcement agencies around the world, the climate for offenders look set to become particularly uncomfortable, and Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) will become one of the first technologies they are likely to encounter as it increases law enforcement efficiency manyfold. Pips Technology has a new police-car-mounted camera that can automatically recognise over 3000 number plates an hour, while police simply cruise through the district. The plates are automatically compared to all wanted vehicle databases, sounding an alarm within a few seconds so police can apprehend the vehicle. At the same time, every plate recognition is logged in a central computer so that if a vehicle is involved in an offence, all prior sightings of the vehicle with time and GPS coordinates can be retrieved. The technology also recognises number plates in all weather and in complete darkness. See the video here and be frightened.
Special cameras mounted on patrol cars or in fixed locations “read” license plates of passing vehicles and compare the plates to various databases of interest including stolen vehicles, felony warrants, Amber Alerts, and more.
ALPR is an investment with a quick return. According to Kent Jorgensen, Director of the Utah Motor Vehicle Enforcement Division (UT-MVED), “It’s paid for itself already,” after just a few months of using the system. On the topic of efficiency, Sergeant Curtis Stoddard, also of UT-MVED, stated “As an officer it makes things a lot easier. I could only search a couple dozen plates an hour. With this system, I can search 3,000.”
The Long Beach (California) Police Department (LBPD) read 1.4 million plates in its first six months of use, leading to 275 vehicle recoveries and 50 arrests. Benefits of the technology, however, go far beyond improving efficiency and increasing stolen vehicle recoveries. The LBPD credits the PIPS system with aiding in the surveillance and apprehension of suspects involved in drug trafficking, identity theft, and carjacking.
One of the “softer” benefits of ALPR is officer safety. If, prior to a routine traffic stop, an officer can be made aware that a vehicle is wanted in connection with a felony or has been reported stolen, it allows them to take a much more cautious approach and/or call for backup. Commenting on another benefit, Sergeant Chris Morgan of LBPD says, “The ALPR system does not discriminate. It eliminates any problems with profiling. The camera doesn’t distinguish the color of a driver’s skin or the condition of the car.”
Similarly, in recent press statements, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) has also praised PIPS’ ALPR as a key component of their enforcement efforts. Through September 2006, PIPS Technology has enabled the CHP to seize or recover 868 wanted or stolen vehicles worth over US$7 million, and in the process, arrest 535 suspects. The CHP uses a combination of fixed cameras throughout the state and mobile patrol units, all feeding data to a common back office system for later querying and reporting.