The Pembroke Police Department’s trial use of an automated license plate reader has worked so well, it might become permanent.
The tag reader, on loan from the company Vigilant Solutions, takes a photo of a car’s license plate. The tag number then is entered into the database in the patrol car’s computer to provide information on the driver and the vehicle.
Police Chief Randy Alexander told Pembroke City Council members Monday night that using the license plate reader for 14 days last month netted $15,418 in citations.
“It’s a very good tool,” Alexander said.
A car tag from any state can be scanned and analyzed, alerting the officer to red flags such as a driver with an expired license or no insurance. However, that was just the beginning of what the tag reader turned up in its trial use in Pembroke.
“We’ve caught marijuana off of it,” Alexander said. “We’ve gotten wanted persons. In one car, we had three wanted persons.”
Keeping the automated tag reader in Pembroke would require City Council approval. The purchase price is $20,000, Alexander said, and the city could choose to lease it with the option to buy.
“From the results, it looks like it would be worthy and it would pay for itself in little or no time,” Mayor Pro-Tem Johnnie Miller said. “I think we need to quit borrowing it and go ahead and try to purchase it.”
One benefit of the system, Alexander said, is its unbiased nature. The license plate reader simply scans car tag information, with no knowledge of who the driver is or what that person is doing.
“No one can say, ‘You stopped me because you saw who I was,’ or, ‘I stopped at the stop sign,’” Alexander said. “This just reads your tag.”
The tag reader made the rounds on its trial basis. Pembroke police used it on main streets as well as “areas that we know we have problems with,” Alexander said.
The system is equipped with Google Earth, so police can track where a vehicle has traveled. Alexander used the example of officers seeing that a car with a Georgia tag was in San Francisco on a certain day, and even what streets it was on.
“So it has a lot of information there that we can use, especially for drug trafficking,” Alexander said. “It gives us a database and tracking history.”