License plate camera grant secured by Bridgeton Sheriff’s Office

Driver be aware; six license plate recognition systems will likely be on law enforcement vehicles come June.

The technology automatically — and continuously — scans vehicle’s license plates, whether parked or in motion.

It then scans a database for a match, providing owner and vehicle information.

Cumberland County Sheriff Robert Austino said that his office acquired a Homeland Security grant of roughly $159,000.

The county Board of Chosen Freeholders approved a resolution at their March 22 meeting that would seek bids for six of these instruments.

Why six? Aside from the grant covering the cost of that total, “One for each city, one for the Prosecutor’s Office and two for the Sheriff’s Department,” said Austino.

He hopes that bids come in and the systems are installed by June.

Once installed, the system can locate, identify, capture, process and scan for information related to a vehicle’s license plate.

The cameras would be mounted between the lightbar and the vehicle’s roof. Some hardwiring is needed for the on board computer system.

The infrared cameras used for documenting are not inhibited by most weather conditions, sun glare or darkness. Camera flash and shutter settings adjust to outside conditions.

The vehicle-mounted versions of these cameras aren’t cheap, most come in at an average of around $20,000 per unit.

ELSAG North America Law Enforcement Systems produces the MPH-900, a prevalent scanner model. Their website provides lease options, associated costs and even a page dedicated to grant assistance.

Austino noted the numerous benefits of these systems over officers who would manually enter license plate digits into a computer system.

“Everything is done automatically,” he said and that the driver would be alerted is the system found an issue in the database.

Aside from the overall logging of license plate characters and pertaining information, Austino said each camera creates its own database.

“There are criminal ends too,” he said.

Using a murder scenario as an example, Austino said his department could check the database to see if they ever scanned the victim’s car.

He also mentioned an incident from May of last year. A van parked in Times Square N.Y. with a possible bomb inside was discovered by police. The Federal Bureau of Investigation put out a call to anyone with license plate readers to see if they had logged the van’s plates before.

Bridgeton Police Chief Mark Ott said the camera his department is receiving would be installed on one of their patrol cars.

He said the system had many uses once up and running. It can identify potentially stolen cars, granted the proper license plates are still on.

It can detect unregistered cars or cars with out-of-date registration. It can also detect warrants, fines or failure to appear charges that are associated with the vehicle’s registered owner.

However, the registered owner would need to be behind the wheel when the officer made the motor vehicle stop.

When asked about fictitious license plates and how the system would respond to reading one, Ott said “We don’t have a whole lot of fictitious plate manufacturing going on.”

He said there are cases of it, though.

More often than not, valid plates and registration have been swapped from a registered vehicle to an unregistered one, according to Ott.

He said that case would still be “fictitious under the law” but a plate scan would come up clean.

Source: The News of Cumberland County

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