Reynoldsburg police have a new set of eyes to scan license plate numbers while on patrol.
The police department was notified last month it has selected to receive a free License Plate Reader, courtesy of a federal grant through the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program and Law Enforcement State Homeland Security Program.
The LPR's estimated cost is $17,925, including installation and maintenance. The state-of-the-art electronic "eye" is mounted to a police cruiser and can scan multiple licenses plates on parked vehicles and on vehicles traveling toward or behind the cruiser.
The LPR can detect license plate information regardless of ambient illumination, day, night, sun or shadow. It also detects the information regardless of other possible obscuring factors such as the font used on the license plate, camera-to-plate distance, plate tilt, rotation, skew, presence of a trailer hitch or decorative frame.
The LPR captures the numbers using software tied into the police cruiser's computer system, retrieves information about the registered owner and runs that information against a data base of wanted felons, stolen cars, or any other type of information an officer wants to check.
"You can put AMBER alert information in there if you're looking for a particular car for that purpose or, if you have license tag numbers out of a criminal event, you can load that in there a look for that," Lt. Scott McKinley said.
"The camera, of course, works quicker than the human eye and is able to capture large amounts of data and process it and allows the officer to just drive while that information is being collected," McKinley said.
He said the camera is mounted on the side of the cruiser's trunk and by the time anyone notices it the data will already have been captured.
Once a "hit" has been identified, information will appear on the cruiser's computer, telling the officer the description of the car and violation. After the information is confirmed by dispatchers, the officer can take enforcement action, McKinley said.
He said the LPR is not used if a patrol officer already sees a violation and pulls a car over because by then, he has already called in the plate number without using the LPR.
"You drive down Main Street and you've got literally hundreds of cars passing you. Instead of calling each plate in with the radio, which would be impossible, the LPR is able to read the plates of every single car that comes by you," McKinley said.
For example, from the time a cruiser drives on East Main Street from Brice Road east to the city limits, a patrol officer could pass a hundred or more cars. The LPR will read and collect the license plate numbers on every one.
"If it matches the license plate number up to one of the files in the data base, it will come up with a hit saying this is a stolen car, or a wanted person, then the officer verifies it," McKinley said.
He said the International Association of Chiefs of Police encourages the use of the LPR technology.
Information from the LPR is stored in a data data base for 90 days.
"That can be used to go back and identify what cars were at the scene of a crime at a certain time," McKinley said.
Reynoldsburg was awarded only one LPR unit. McKinley said the federal grant purchased a total of 86 units for Homeland Security Region 4, which includes 10 different Ohio counties, including Franklin County. The units had to be distributed to many different agencies that applied, he said.
"You never would have thought of this 20 years ago but it sure is a great way to be able to utilize an existing data base of license plate information to help track people that are not complying with the law," McKinley said.