Police departments in Southwest Florida are installing license plate reader (LPR) technology on the roads to catch criminals or locate missing people.
LPR technology consists of cameras placed on the roads that scan the license plates of cars. The system alerts law enforcement once it identifies the license plate of a stolen car or a car otherwise on a “Hot List.”
The Fort Myers Police Department said in a statement: “the LPR systems provide alerts upon reading a license plate that is entered as stolen or entered into a ‘Hot List.’ The Hot List is intended for license plates that are entered into the National Crime Information Center, as well as license plates associated with Amber and Silver alerts.”
LPR cameras can be placed on the road at an intersection or on a patrol car. Others are mobile.
This month, the technology helped several agencies to make arrests, including the arrest of Kayla Brown, 30, an out-of-state fugitive wanted for “death by distribution” in North Carolina.
WINK News Safety & Security Specialist Rich Kolko said that departments have embraced the technology as an investigative tool over the last few years. “They’ve purchased more of them into their budgets in the last few years, and they’ve added it as an investigative tool once they found out how helpful it really was,” he said.
Andrea Esposito added that the technology will make it easier for police to track suspects on the roads and keep the community safe.
“I think using that to catch people, especially if you know if there’s somebody that stole a child and they’ve done like the alerts and all that, I think that’s a great way to catch people. You can catch up with somebody just by being in your car that way, versus putting on the street. You know walking on the street during the heat,” she said.
In July, the Cape Coral Police Department bought six new license plate readers and installed three of each in two separate locations.
Legal analysts assured privacy advocates that LPR technology will not be used to track anyone who is not accused of a crime, as it is illegal for law enforcement to access a random person’s information through the LPR system without a warrant for criminal activity.