Relied upon by law enforcement agencies around the world, modern-day technologies have an important role to play in boosting public safety. A prime example is the widespread adoption of automatic license plate readers (ALPRs) in the US. These high-speed, high-resolution cameras can be mounted on utility poles, streetlights, overpasses, or police cars to capture hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of plates a minute, matching these against hot lists to identify criminals.
ALPRs are being increasingly deployed in all 50 states, with tens of thousands of readers in use across the country. By acting as another pair of eyes within agencies and sending instant alerts the second a hot list match occurs, ALPRs are helping to solve a range of vehicle-related crimes.
Combatting vehicle crimes
Vehicle crime is a major issue, and one that costs the US billions in losses every year. Installing an ALPR network in local communities not only provides a deterrent for thieves but is also a proven way for police to recover stolen cars and return them to owners.
The highest number of vehicles stolen in one year peaked at 1.7 million in 1991. Over the following two decades, FBI figures show a downward trend, with numbers falling 56% by 2019. Increased law enforcement efforts, supported by the growing number of ALPRs being utilised by agencies, have clearly been making a difference.
Nevertheless, the FBI reports that $7.4bn was lost to motor vehicle theft in 2020, when economic downturn sent figures to new highs – a rate of 246 stolen cars per 100,000 people. Meanwhile, national recovery rates averaged at 56.4% for locally stolen vehicles that year. This was considerably higher than the total recovery rate for all stolen property (31.1%). With a greater deployment of ALPR technology, not only in big cities but in smaller towns too, that recovery rate for stolen vehicles is expected to grow higher and higher.
On high alert
While the term ‘vehicle crime’ usually refers to the theft and trafficking of vehicles, many other crimes also involve cars, vans, trucks, and motorcycles. And wherever there’s a license plate, there’s an opportunity for ALPR readers to identify suspects.
According to statistics from the Child Crime Prevention and Safety Center, approximately 840,000 children are reported missing in the US every year. In the incidence of a kidnapping or abduction, an AMBER Alert is distributed. ALPRs can receive these alerts from a shared hot list, enabling every police car outfitted with the technology to search for the suspect plate.
In 2020, one success story posted by leading ALPR company Leonardo showcased the value of ALPR technology at its finest. In what Atlanta authorities described as an extremely rare random kidnapping, a baby was taken from its mother by a couple who held her at gunpoint. Leonardo’s ALPR technology played an instrumental role in alerting state troopers to the suspects’ whereabouts, enabling officers to pull over the suspect’s vehicle and find the baby, thankfully, unharmed.
License plate readers collect much more information than plate numbers. Date and time stamps, GPS coordinates, and colour images showing a significant portion of the vehicle and its immediate surroundings (all obtainable from an ALPR) can be used by police officers to identify and resolve illegal activity. Considering drug dealers and traffickers can often be suspected from their traffic patterns, this becomes a powerful tool and deterrent.
Partnership with a flexible ALPR provider can also turn the technology into an effective system for homeland security. Leonardo works closely with law enforcement and homeland security agencies to deliver customised ALPR solutions used for policing gang-related crimes, terrorism, illegal immigration, and more.
With many other applications ranging from the removal of suspended and revoked drivers from roads to the enforced use of toll lanes and the monitoring of town evacuations during public safety events, ALPR technology has proven its true versatility.
Leonardo’s ESLAG LPR products are deployed across all 50 states by more than 4,000 agencies both large and small, and are being put to use to help those forces solve a range of vehicle-related crimes. The ELSAG portfolio includes fixed, mobile, and custom systems that each act as true force-multipliers for the officers, agencies and companies they serve.
To learn more about how to keep communities safe from vehicle-related crime with ALPR technology, download the whitepaper below.