Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Automated License Plate Reader plays key role for Redlands Police Department - San Bernardino County Sun

Automated License Plate Reader plays key role for Redlands Police Department - San Bernardino County Sun:
REDLANDS - For five years, the Police Department has been using a tool that has helped officers recover stolen vehicles and apprehend suspects wanted for various crimes.
The Automated License Plate Reader - made up of three cameras and a central processing unit - travels around the city mounted on the back of an police car and captures thousands of images a day with one simple automated click of a camera.
A small beep echoes through the back of the squad car after each image is collected.
Retired Redlands police Lt. Russ Dalzell looks at a monitor in the vehicle, watching images as they are captured on screen.
At any second, the soothing beep could turn into a loud alarm that will alert him - and on-duty officers - of a vehicle that might be "flagged" for any reason.
The tool - also known as ALPR - was brought to the Police Department several years ago and helped certify the RPD as a law enforcement agency that was welcoming to technology. Not only that, the RPD embraced it.
Since the ALPR came on board, the department has looked into several ways technology can aid authorities using applications on smartphones or iPads.
Dalzell has the opportunity to discover such technology and train officers on how to fully utilize them.
The ALPR was initially brought on board to monitor license plates for possible stolen vehicles. But after it proved to aid in the recovery of such theft, the tool was used for much more.
Once a plate is read, the license number, its geographic coordinates, the date and time and a photo of the vehicle are stored in a database that the department can use.
Images can be captured at a speed of 100 mph. The algorithm is programmed to capture license plates but can pick up other things such as signs.
Over the years, other agencies came on board with the technology. The information stored by any department can be located with one simple search.
"From an investigative standpoint, that information can be incredibly useful," Dalzell said. "An example could be a vehicle that has gone through town maybe (with) some burglars who are looking for some place to burglarize.
"If that license plate has been `read' either by a stationary site or a mobile site, that goes into the database. And you can search that data base, so an investigator can go back and put a plate in the system and ask if that plate has ever been read, and where."
Last year, the Redlands and San Bernardino police departments credited the ALPR and cooperation from other local law enforcement agencies for the arrest of a suspect wanted for armed robbery in San Bernardino.
A Redlands police corporal on patrol on Feb. 23 was heading north on Eureka Street when she received a hit on the license plate of a passing southbound vehicle.
The corporal made a U-Turn and stopped the vehicle, a 1997 Toyota 4Runner, at Cajon Street and Olive Avenue.
The driver, identified as 42-year-old Eric Wayne Eaves of Redlands, was found to be wanted by San Bernardino police in connection with a Feb. 19 robbery of a Walmart.
Detectives said Evans left the store with merchandise hidden in his clothing, and when confronted by a store employee, he pulled a knife and escaped in the Toyota.
The license plate of the vehicle was entered in a statewide database and was picked up by the ALPR on the Redlands officer's vehicle.
Eaves was arrested without incident, authorities said.
Redlands officers find stolen vehicles almost every week, Dalzell said.
"Twice a day, the state's stolen vehicle data is uploaded to our server.
The program was paid for with grants.
Dalzell hopes the Police Department adds more ALPRs to its fleet, he said.
"We're recovering a lot of stolen vehicles...a lot more quickly," he said.

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