The Newport Police Department is using a technology called License Plate Readers (LPR) to help fight crime.
It's a simple beep from his laptop that lets officer Steve McElroy know that a suspicious vehicle is nearby. Thanks to the Homeland Security Grant Program, McElroy can track the plates using three cameras on top of this cruiser.
The cameras take pictures of every car's license plate as it passes, regardless of whether it's in motion or parked. The system will then alert the officer if the
vehicle is stolen or the owner has an outstanding warrant.
"It reads them, takes a picture and
then GPS's where the plate was read," said Officer McElroy.
According to McElroy, the LPR also helps detectives
solve bigger crimes.
"Union Township over in Ohio had a
burglary and had a suspect, and the suspect had told them that he was in his
vehicle in Tennessee and with my LPR system they were able to prove that he was
lying," Officer McElroy explained.
However, there are some that aren't completely onboard with this technology.
"It may be a good thing, but I'm kind of
old school like that and I believe everyone should have the right to
privacy," said Newport resident Ron Herald.
"They don't need to know what I'm doing
24/7. They don't need to know if my car is stolen or not," said Tory Hammons, another local resident.
Hammons says even though
it may help police, he's still not a fan.
"We're losing more of our rights every
day, and if I'm not doing anything wrong, why do they need to have a record of
my license plate," Hammons told FOX19.
The Newport Police Department stresses there
isn't anything to worry about. If needed, they can access your personal
information using another system called 'Mobile Cop' and not through the LPR
"It does not give me any owner's
information, race of the owner, gender, anything," said McElroy.
There is a way to outsmart the LPR system, McElroy says. Certain license plate covers make it difficult for the
technology to scan the plate.
"If you're not directly behind it and
pretty much on the same plane as far as the license plate with it being sunny
out, you're not going to be able to read the tag," he explained.
So how long is the picture of your plates
stored? Depending on the agency, it can be just a few days or several years.
Only a fraction of the time does this
technology pay off. Officer McElroy says during an average shift, they'll scan
about 5,000 plates, but they only have about one or two legitimate hits each month.
Several other law enforcement agencies across
the Tri-State use this license plate recognition technology, and Newport Police say they hope to
equip more cruisers with the technology in the future.
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