License plate readers get results, so why isn't everyone using them?

Several cities, counties still don't use them

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – In Volusia County, license plate readers are spotting stolen cars, catching wanted criminals and bringing home Alzheimer's patients.

Recently, a serial bank robbery suspect drove by an LPR in Volusia County and within 15 minutes deputies had the person in custody.

The small scanners are either mounted permanently on the roadside or moved around the county on trailers.

When a car passes by the scanner, the device scans the license plate and the LPR system transcribes the plate and cross-references it with a list in a database. Deputies can input a certain tag into the database if they're searching for a vehicle.

If the tag matches one that's in the database, the system alerts an analyst who verifies the match before dispatching deputies.

Volusia County had installed 33 LPRs countywide, the most of any county in Central Florida.

Sheriff Mike Chitwood said LPRs are more effective than almost any other technology in recent history.

"DNA and LPRs are the greatest advent in my law enforcement career that I've seen that help us keep our community safe and get the bad guys off the streets," Chitwood said.

At the beginning of 2019, Flagler County purchased a minimal LPR system that several nearby counties use so the systems can "talk" to each other. If a car with a wanted tag crosses into St. Johns County, Flagler Sheriff Rick Staly said St. Johns' LPR system would alert Flagler County, and vice versa.

Staly said even with the minimal LPR system, Flagler gets three to four matches per day.

The Orange County Sheriff's Office rarely discusses its LPRs, but a spokesperson said deputies have been using license plate reader technology since 2011. The spokesperson called LPRs a ”very valuable law enforcement tool as a force multiplier."

The Osceola, Sumter and Marion County sheriff's offices all said they also use LPRs effectively. Sumter's are new and Marion just began testing of its LPRs.

But the Lake and Brevard County Sheriff's Office and the Orlando Police Department don't have a single LPR.

The biggest deterrent toward investing in LPRs is money.

Flagler County's minimal system cost $220,000 plus monthly data fees.

A spokesperson for the Lake County Sheriff's Office admits the LPR technology is valuable and worth investing in.

Over the past year, the Lake County Sheriff's Office has tested LPRs from a couple different companies and is "impressed with their potential."

Lake is now looking to purchase LPRs "down the road," the spokesperson said.

The Orlando Police Department is also planning to purchase LPRs.

An OPD spokesperson said the department is expecting the Orlando City Council this week to approve an inter-agency agreement between the OPD and the Miami Police Department to access Florida Department of Law Enforcement  Vigilant LPR servers.

The Vigilant LPR system database is securely stored at the Miami Police Department.

The OPD spokesperson said purchasing access to the LPR database would alert the department if a car with a wanted tag enters another jurisdiction that uses the Vigilant LPR system.

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