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Update: More on New Police License-Scanning Cameras

McLean District Using New Crime-Fighting Scanner

The Fairfax County police department is just beginning to determine the effectiveness of its newest crime fighter: A camera mounted on their cars that can read license plates in a flash.

"The readers scan for stolen vehicles, stolen license plates, and AMBER alerts," said Officer Tawny Wright of the police public information office. 

"On an average patrol shift (11.5 hours), the devices might scan around 7000 license plates, far more than any officer could view and run manually, which increases the likelihood of detecting a vehicle or person potentially involved in criminal activity," Wright wrote in an e-mail.

County police now have 26 of the cameras,  three at each of the county's eight district stations, including McLean,  and one in the Criminal Investigations Bureau. Each device costs $23,000. All but three were purchased through a federal grant, Officer Wright said.

The police started installing the cameras in  December 2010 and is still in the process of putting them in the designated cars, she said. "But to give you an idea of how well they work, the license plate readers can accurately scan as many plates as we can pass by even at interstate speeds, regardless of weather or light conditions and we've had minimal, if any, issues with the devices."
 
Since mid-January, the devices have registered four returns or "hits," and at least one arrest," she said.

Fairfax County has become the latest police department to get the new crime fighting equipment. The camera is linked to a computer that is linked to the Virginia Crime Information Network and to the National Crime Information Center.The cameras scan license plates looking for stolen cars, stolen plates, plates wanted in connection to an outstanding warrant or in connection to a police lookout.

The camera is linked to a computer that is linked to the Virginia Crime Information Network and to the National Crime Information Center, McAllister said. The cameras scan license plates looking for stolen cars, stolen plates, plates wanted in connection to an outstanding warrant or in connection to a police lookout.

"It's a neat tool for our officers,"  said Lt. Mike McAllister, the former deputy commander of the McLean Police District. Lt. McAllister has a new assignment in the central command center.

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