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New Police Equipment Can Read A License Plate

SANATOGA PA – New equipment just installed on a Lower Pottsgrove Police Department patrol car can read a vehicle license plate as it cruises down a street, and immediately report to officers if the accompanying registration is overdue, if its driver may be operating with a suspended license, or if it’s been connected to the commission of a crime, township Police Chief Michael Foltz told the Board of Commissioners on Monday (Feb. 6, 2017).

The department took delivery last week (Feb. 2) of a $22,000 automatic license plate reader, paid for under a federal Department of Homeland Security grant obtained by the Montgomery County Public Safety Department. Foltz said he took a ride with one of his officers in the specially equipped cruiser, and was impressed by its capabilities.

Experts say the readers use small high-speed cameras to photograph license plates, and then scan police and security databases to find information about them. Technology supporting the readers has been around for several years, they report, but as databases have become more interconnected the efficiency of readers has dramatically increased.

The American Civil Liberties Union suggests “enormous databases of innocent motorists’ location information are growing rapidly. This information is often retained for years or even indefinitely, with few or no restrictions to protect privacy rights.” Members of the Virginia Legislature apparently agree; a law-making committee in that state last week proposed passage of a bill to “limit use of automatic license plate readers and restrict the retention and sharing of collected data.”

But the readers are helping police find and catch criminal suspects that might otherwise elude them, according to several reports:

  • Police in Miami FL cautiously approached and successfully apprehended a suspect who was driving a car flagged by a reader as being stolen;
  • Vermont law enforcers are using information captured by readers to “offer insight into narcotics trafficking patterns” and solve drug-related crimes; and
    In northern New Jersey, police stopped a driver whose car was flagged with a license suspension, and ended up arresting the driver on several drug and alcohol-related charges based on materials found inside the vehicle.

Foltz indicated the reader would simply serve as another tool available for the department’s use.

Related (to the Lower Pottsgrove Board of Commissioners’ Feb. 6 meeting):

Photo from Google Images

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