Deputies have a new tool for patrol work

Rick Combs
Law enforcement is no different than any other industry and is always coming up with new and improved methods and equipment for the safety of our communities. Today I’d like to discuss the Automatic Licenses Plate Reader (ALPR), a new tool the Clermont County Sheriff’s Office obtained through a Department of Homeland Security Grant.

The purpose of the ALPR is to track and record license plates “captured” by one of the four camera ports located on a patrol car, and to use that information to cross reference local, state and federal law enforcement databases to search for wanted persons, people on terrorist watch lists, stolen vehicles, and vehicles that may be linked to Amber Alert for a missing or abducted child, or another documented crime.

The ALPR hit alone is not probable cause for a stop. The officer must verify the information and go through several steps to ensure the operator of the vehicle, and other documented data matches the description logged into the law enforcement network, prior to even stopping the vehicle. If the ALPR scans and captures a plate it almost instantly alerts the operator that the plate is listed in one of the databases.

A photo of the plate, the vehicle, and description is shown. The operator must then confirm that the ALPR read the plate correctly, the state of issue is correct, and finally must confirm the “hit” with a query to the Law Enforcement Automated Data System or LEADS. If all information matches and the driver of the vehicle matches the description of the registered owner, only then does probable cause exist for a traffic stop. All this happens in a matter of seconds not minutes as in older methods.

Another outstanding feature of the ALPR is its ability to track license plate numbers. If a specific plate is identified as used in a specific type of crime, the system will document every location, time, and date the plate was scanned, to including, GPS coordinates. A Google Earth overlay can be placed on the screen and the exact locations is then available. This feature would be extremely useful in tracking serial drug traffickers, burglars, or those habitual violators of law. Placing a suspect and his vehicle at the scene of a crime is a huge step toward a conviction during a jury trial.

The data system is one of the projects of SOSINK (Southern Ohio Southern Indiana Northern Kentucky) which provides financial assistance to address the unique planning, equipment, training, and exercise needs of high-threat, high-density urban areas. Approximately 60 agencies in the Tri-State area have units in the field and are linked to SOSINK which enters the information into the database. Thus far over 15 million plates have been read and thousands of criminals locked up just be cruising our highways.

Rick Combs is the Chief Deputy of Criminal Operations with the Clermont County Sheriff’s Office.