Vehicle in a Haystack: How License Plate Reading Can Help the Modern-day Police Force

Vehicle in a Haystack: How License Plate Reading Can Help the Modern-day Police Force
Apr 24, 2019

Never in the history of law enforcement has the pressure been so high  — the pressure to prevent crime, the pressure to conclude investigations quickly and accurately, and the pressure to maintain utmost transparency with the community. In a technology-driven, 24/7 newscycle world, public anxiety has increased even as crime rates have plateaued and dropped.

Constituents expect speed of service; instantaneous gratification and response is woven into so many other aspects of modern life. But traditional police work has often been an after-the-fact process.

However, that’s changing, rapidly. With an influx of crime data and powerful analytics, some police forces have seized on data-driven techniques to enable proactive and responsive policing.

“Officers use evidence-based investigatory techniques to tackle crime before it becomes a problem; it’s sort of like evidence-based, preventative medicine, which leads to better health outcomes,” James Randol, retired police captain and V5 Systems team member.

Traditional law enforcement technology, like License plate reading (LPR), is getting a serious data-driven upgrade.

Are You Safe Where You Shop?

A Bay Area police department was getting multiple service calls a week from a local mall where a series of escalating burglaries was scaring away business and making local shoppers and store owners feel unsafe and targeted. Business for the mall was grinding to a standstill, and local residents were fearful that the thefts could potentially spiral into more violent crime. The police were able to determine that many of these crimes could be traced to repeat offenders.  

Determined to address the spate of crime in real-time as opposed to waiting for service calls, the force decided it wanted to deploy license plate reading (LPR) technology at ingress and egress points of the parking lot. LPR technology can match license plate numbers with hotlists; hotlisted plates can encompass license plate numbers of stolen vehicles, stolen license plates, vehicles owned or associated with wanted persons, missing/endangered people, federal probationers, sex offenders, suspended drivers and criminal suspects. The department connected with a local company that offered this kind of technology where several former law enforcement colleagues were now working because they felt their peers would understand the department’s needs. This Silicon Valley tech company’s LPR technology was both covert and portable, unlike legacy LPR, simplifying addressing the crime spike.

,After the LPR units went up, the Bay Area cops gained a rapid force multiplier and started receiving alerts in real-time, resulting in several arrests which made crime rates drop significantly, allowing mall-goers and employees to feel safe again.

Reading license plates, Leading breakthroughs

LPRs can also help reduce cases like automobile thefts, hit-and-run incidents and traffic offenses to non-automobile related crimes from illegal dumping to murder. The rapid data gathering propels quicker investigations and helps police identify and rule out suspects. LPR can be used to forensically bolster testimony when timelines need to be established.  

Limitations of the traditional LPR system

According to some Law Enforcement, traditional LPR is cumbersome, inflexible and not covert:

  • Units need to be connected to fixed, external power so they cannot be installed quickly or moved around and deployed in every area
  • Deployment is time-consuming and expensive due to permitting and trenching
  • Trailer-mounted units are restricted to places where parking is available
  • Most mobile LPR systems are not covert and are sometimes subject to vandalism themselves

Solar-powered LPRs, on the other hand, don’t require any additional power infrastructure.

These LPR units are discreet, portable, and mounted on available infrastructure; some providers’ solar power is bullet-resistant, in case someone decides to take potshots. They can be configured and installed quickly, at a fraction of the cost. A leading university in California secured its campus, covering an area the size of 18,000 football fields in just four hours. These units helped the university save nearly half a million dollars in trenching fees.2

Responsive tech is part of the solution

Data, data, data. Embracing a data-driven approach yields results that create a positive feedback loop in terms of a community’s health. Responsive technology enables police officers to respond to changing needs quickly. The force can benefit from platform-level solutions that are portable, solar-powered, and multi-sensor to empower them with more data.

Now, turnkey security solutions exist and are being actively implemented that offer real-time insight. High-definition video delivers richer information, providing more situational awareness to aid police in making data-driven decisions to respond to a wide range of incidents with limited resources – these LPRs are a force multiplier.

The need to respond faster and proactively will continue to grow as more communities demand greater safety and accountability from their leaders. Law Enforcement that embraces new technology, such as portable and covert LPR tech, have a powerful tool to wield against smarter, more mobile criminal activity. With a hassle-free technology, police forces can reclaim parking lots, intersections, neighborhoods and peace of mind for their communities.

1 https://www.statista.com/statistics/183505/number-of-vehicles-in-the-united-states-since-1990/

2 HIGHER EDUCATION CASE STUDY: A World Leader and Thousands of Students Case Study https://v5systems.us/case-studies/

3 http://www.governing.com/gov-data/safety-justice/police-officers-per-capita-rates-employment-for-city-departments.html

4 https://www.interpol.int/Crime-areas/Vehicle-crime/Vehicle-crime

5 SMART CITY CASE STUDY: Same-day smart security to nab a suspect https://v5systems.us/case-studies/






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