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Why You Should Embrace Automated License Plate Readers

By Josh Thomas

Did you Know?

Did you know that less than 18% of property crime get solved? There just aren’t enough leads for law enforcement to track down the evidence needed to solve crime. So if a porch pirate steals a package off of your doorstep, she’s probably going to get away with it.

Interestingly, nearly 70% of crime involves a vehicle and license plates are public information. If you want to keep your community safe, you can use technology that identifies vehicles, tracks leads, and helps law enforcement capture the evidence to solve crime. In fact, with the use of automated license plate readers, law enforcement officers have a better chance of decreasing the crime rate. Automatic license plate readers can read up to 900 plates per minute. As you can imagine, this helps identify license plates quickly and efficiently.

What Exactly Do They Do?

Automated license plate readers are high-speed cameras that can quickly catch photographs of license plate numbers to capture their location at a specific time and date. There are two primary types of automated license plate readers: stationary and mobile.

Stationary readers

Stationary license plate readers are attached to specific locations such as traffic lights, exit ramps, telephone poles, trailers, or street poles. Automated license plates can also work with other law enforcement systems, like red light cameras or the NCIC Hotlist. Any wanted, known suspect, or individual driving a stolen vehicle, who drives by a stationary license plate reader, will send an alert to nearby police officers. Law enforcement can dispatch to make an arrest.

Mobile readers

Mobile license plate readers attach to law enforcement vehicles to collect license plate data of vehicles on public roads. Mobile license plate readers can collect data from thousands of vehicles in just a few minutes.

Data Storage and Privacy

The license plate data that is collected from automatic license plate readers is often securely uploaded to a central server. Some companies retain this data indefinitely and share it with other law enforcement agencies all around the country. The idea is that agencies can come together and access all the information on hand at the time of a crime.

We approach sensitive license plate data a bit differently. It’s all securely stored in the cloud with AES-256 encryption, and automatically deletes every 30 days, on a rolling basis - limiting risk and only keeping the data for as long as law enforcement needs to track leads and solve crimes.

We’ve also seen that local data helps solve local crime. It’s often not useful for your local San Diego police to have access to Maryland license plate data when investigating property crimes. There can be value in high profile cases, but 7.2M property crimes occur every year that would not require a national dataset. Moreover, whoever operates a Flock Safety license plate reader owns the footage. We do not own your footage. Therefore, we never share license plate data without explicit written permission from Flock Safety users who want to share that data with other law enforcement agencies.

Embrace the Value

There have been some arguments that these automated license plate readers are an invasion of privacy. And to be fair, some companies have misused license plate data. However, it’s helpful to remember that we, as a society, can implement better safeguards to protect the public from misuse. We can adopt better practices for who has access to the data and what they can do with it. Additionally, there are numerous benefits to this technology and here’s why you should embrace automated license plate readers:

Law Enforcement Can Do More with Limited Resources

Today, law enforcement relies on witness accounts to recall vehicle types, colors, and maybe, if we’re lucky, a license plate. As mentioned, automatic license plate readers can collect data from 900 vehicles per minute. This technology helps law enforcement be more efficient, and significantly more accurate when fighting crime.

Several months ago, there was a case in Marietta, Georgia where license plate readers played a successful part in the solving of a heinous crime that took place in an apartment complex. There was an aggravated assault where a victim was assaulted with a weapon and the suspect had fled the scene before law enforcement arrived.

When the suspect returned to the complex, Flock Safety license plate readers that had been installed at the front of the suspect's community, sent an alert to Marietta Police Officers notifying them that the vehicle attached to the warrant had entered the complex. Law enforcement swiftly drove to the scene, located the suspect, and took him into custody without further incident. The case is just one of many cases that benefitted from that extra set of eyes.

Additionally, there are nearly 200 Amber Alerts and thousands of Silver Alerts each year in the US. Flock Safety automatic plate readers assisted in the safe location of a one-year-old girl who was the subject of a statewide Amber Alert. Automated license plate readers are a powerful investigative tool to help find those who go missing and might be in danger.

Promote Public and Officer Safety

Not only to automatic license plate readers promote public safety, but this cutting-edge technology also helps protect officers all around the country. With license plate readers, officers have more information about the vehicle they are about to approach. Before the officer even steps outside of their car to approach the vehicle they pulled over, they know if the vehicle was associated with previous crimes. This information is helpful to officers today because they will know when to take extra precautions. For instance, if an officer pulls over a vehicle where the driver has a dangerous criminal record and might be armed, the officer is better prepared to take the necessary precautions.

Improve Efficiency

Right now, any one can sit on a street corner and write down every license plate that passes. But really, just how efficient and accurate is this process? Compared to an automated license plate reader system, it is incomparable. With this technology, cameras can capture hundreds of license plates per minute.

In Cobb County, police reduced crime by 60%, thanks to Flock Safety automatic license plate readers. According to the report, automatic license plate readers “placed along the road are capturing license plates and letting Cobb County police known in real-time if cars are stolen, or if someone with a known criminal history is in the area.” That just wouldn’t be possible without the technology.

A Safe Database Management

All of the information collected by these systems is coordinated and stored in an organized, secure, and user-friendly database that is enhanced by a variety of analytical tools. This information is strictly for the purpose of investigating crime and keeping the community safe.

New technology is introduced to industries every day to help professionals perform their job better. Law enforcement officials can rely on automated license plate reader technology to help keep both themselves and the public safe. The quicker we can capture evidence and gain leads, the fewer crimes there will be in the country. In some cases, automated license plate readers could help to save a victim's life, whether it’s in a road traffic incident or a missing person's case.

At Flock Safety, we are dedicated to keeping the public safe by preventing crimes with the added benefit of Automatic License Plate Reader Systems. Want to learn more? Request a free demo to see how our systems work!

Originally published: 2020-01-10 19:29:01