License plate readers make an impact with law enforcement

Richmond County Sheriff's Deputy Terry Skinner stands with two of the four license plate readers mounted atop the trunk lid of his police cruiser.

 

Local law enforcement offices could gain an additional set of eyes on the road through license plate reader technology.

Even in the testing phase, the readers have made an impact.

On July 25, A Richmond County Sheriff’s Office Dodge Charger equipped with four cameras patrolled the streets of Augusta.

As the car reached the 800 block of Laney Walker Boulevard, an alert sounded in the vehicle, notifying Deputy Terry Skin­ner that the Mercedes Benz M50 he just passed was wanted in connection with a felony.

Skinner stopped the SUV, called for backup and arrested Anthony L. Hannah, 45, who had an outstanding warrant.

Skinner’s patrol car is the only one at the sheriff’s office outfitted with the readers. The agency is slowly acquainting itself with the technology, Lt. Lewis Blanchard said.

“Right now it’s only a testing and evaluation phase,” he said. “We’ve got this company and two other companies that are going to let us have (the readers) for 30 days for testing and evaluation each.”

The system being tested uses four cameras mounted on the trunk. The unit snaps photos of license plates as the patrol car passes vehicles and communicates with the Geor­gia Crime Information Cen­ter to verify information and spot offenders, Blanchard said.

“This tag reader can scan 1,000 cars in 10 minutes, while we can only physically scan so much,” he said.

Blanchard said the units range in price from $12,000 to $15,000.

“It all comes down to the pros and cons,” he said. “Are the benefits of this (reader) over that one worth the extra money?”

The Aiken County Sher­iff’s Office has had its eye on license plate readers for a while, Capt. Eric Abdullah said.

“We’re still researching and trying to find funding options,” he said. “We had a demo, but we haven’t tested any readers as of yet.”

Abdullah said the readers used in Aiken County will mostly benefit tax enforcement officers looking for those who haven’t renewed their vehicle registration.

In Richmond County, the readers are expected to see action in the traffic and crime supression divisions, Blanchard said. Cars equipped with tag readers won’t be restricted to patrolling a predetermined area like most cruisers.

The parameters can be adjusted on the readers to pick up certain types of offenses, from expired registrations to vehicles associated with felonies.

The Richmond County Sher­iff’s Office hasn’t determined where the money to buy the readers would come from, but it expects to have the readers on the budget for next year, Blanchard said.

Abdullah said the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office hopes to purchase readers before the end of the year.

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