Police scan license tags entering city to find vehicles used in crimes

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Looking for cars and trucks used during crimes, Miami Springs police have installed a new license plate reader to run vehicle tags as drivers enter the city from Hialeah.

The $34,000 camera system went live Jan. 1 and sits above the city’s Warren Pony swing bridge near the intersection of Canal Street and Curtiss Parkway.

“If the city of Hialeah has a robbery with the license tag ABC 123 and that red Cadillac happens to drive through one of our cameras, bing, it alerts us,” Miami Springs Police Chief Armando Guzman said. “The data is only stored for 90 days, unless the vehicle has been used in a crime, is stolen or the tag is stolen.”

The cameras process vehicle tag information automatically through the Florida Crime Information Center, as well as the National Crime Information Center, and the readers were paid for using the department’s budget, Guzman said.

 

The system has already helped Miami Springs police recover two stolen cars and locate a missing person.

“ALPRs [automatic license plate readers] can be used for narrowly tailored law enforcement purposes, such as identifying vehicles that are stolen, involved in a crime, or associated with fugitives,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida. “Those narrow activities themselves, if done right, are reasonable uses of technology because they are focused solely on people accused of wrongdoing.”

Simon added that there is “no reason to store records of license plates that are not ‘hits’ against any database.”

Along with the bridge camera, Miami Springs has also deployed a $23,000 mobile license plate reader attached to a patrol car to keep residents safe and fight crime, police said.

Other local police agencies that use this technology include Miami, Hialeah and Miami-Dade.

“The ALPRs are an added tool that the Miami Police Department uses and we have recovered a great deal of stolen vehicles,” Miami Police Department Officer Kenia Fallat said. “Our detectives have found them to be useful too in locating people who have been reported missing.”

Miami police use both stationary and mobile readers and Fallat said that the department keeps a log on the use of ALPRs and that appropriate action is taken only when police receive bona fide “hits.”

Miami Springs police are mulling adding an additional stationary camera in the future at another location.


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