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License Plate Scanners Proving Useful

The technology yielded 50 arrests in three months.

Two Missouri law enforcement agencies say the vehicle license-plate readers they have been testing have proved their worth during the last half of 2010, according to published reports.

On Aug. 11, 2010, the Columbia (Mo.) Police Department placed license plate scanners on two police vehicles and within 30 minutes had a hit that led to an arrest, and by Nov. 14, 2010 the technology facilitated 50 arrests, the department says.

The department mounted scanners on a patrol vehicle and a street crimes unit vehicle. The 50 arrests resulted in 42 misdemeanor charges and nine felony charges, as well as the recovery of five stolen vehicles and four stolen license plates.

“I’m real happy with the results,” said Columbia police Lt. Brian Richenberger, who has been monitoring the implementation of the cameras. The license-plate readers work, he said. “One of these days, it will help crack a very important case.”

At least one of the two Columbia police vehicles equipped with a scanner is on the streets 24 hours a day, Richenberger said. The scanner also has assisted in developing leads for burglary cases since its implementation.

“It has been described as a force multiplier, and we have found that to be true,” he said. “It allows us to do our job better and more efficiently. That is an advantage to the taxpayer. We are allowed to do more with less.”

In addition, the Boone County (Mo.) Sheriff’s Department also began using license plate readers on two vehicles during 2010, and from July 30 through Nov. 27, the scanners have contributed to 39 arrests and approximately 56 charges, said sheriff’s department spokesman, Maj. Tom Reddin.

Most of the arrests were in response to misdemeanor warrants, but the readers have also has assisted in the recovery of stolen vehicles and license plates, Reddin said. An officer can only run so many plates, while readers can scan more than 3,000 license plates per day and are constantly running plates “against the hot list” of wanted vehicles, he said. A match sounds an alarm that alerts the officer.