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Columbia law enforcement tests license plate reader

Thursday, July 2, 2009 | 6:35 p.m. CDT; updated 9:38 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Columbia Police Officer Cathy Dodd surveys cars with the new ELSAG device on July 2. Dodd has been working in law enforcement for 20 years and said she has seen technology make her job easier and easier with new developments.

COLUMBIA — For over a month, local police have been testing a device that can scan thousands of license plates a day to check for stolen cars, stolen plates or for warrants associated with the plate numbers.

A few weeks ago, the Boone County Sheriff’s Department completed a 30-day demonstration of the Mobile Plate Hunter-900, a device developed by ELSAG North America Law Enforcement Systems, which is based in Brewster, N.Y.

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The Columbia Police Department began a 30-day trial with the device on June 12, after the sheriff’s department completed their trial. The departments are seeking federal grants to purchase the device, which they said carries a price tag of $20,000 each.

The device uses two cameras to scan license plates — one with a color image, the other infrared — and matches the characters on the plate with numbers listed in law enforcement databases. The infrared camera allows the device to be used at night.   

Officers can get results from a plate almost instantly and can effectively scan the plates of an automobile traveling up to 70 miles per hour in the opposite direction.

Boone County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Chad Martin said that during the department’s trial, at least three warrant arrests were made from use of the device, and two sets of stolen license plates were recovered, which also resulted in arrests.

“We’re pretty much sold on it,” Martin said. “It’s an amazing piece of equipment.”

Columbia police Sgt. Brian Richenburger of the Street Crimes Unit said that in just one day of use, officers were able to scan about 1,600 plates.

Richenburger said the device would “definitely pay for itself” in the time saved by officers using the device to check plates as opposed to manually calling in the numbers.

“It offers the opportunity to make arrests that you wouldn’t normally do in a shorter amount of time,” Richenburger said.

Officer Cathy Dodd, who also works with the Street Crimes Unit, said that as of Thursday, the device helped officers retrieve a stolen vehicle and make at least six arrests.

Martin and Richenburger said officers experienced no problems with the device.

Nathan Maloney, a spokesman for ELSAG, said 1,600 scanning devices are being used by 560 law enforcement agencies in all 50 states, Canada and Mexico. He said at least three agencies in Missouri were using the device.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, which includes the Kansas City metropolitan area, has also recently completed a demonstration of the product.

Capt. Michael Montgomery of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department said during their trial with the device, which was from Apr. 28 to May 22, the device read 144,367 plates. The scans resulted in 90 arrests on warrants and the recovery of 12 stolen cars.

Montgomery said the department was seeking to purchase the device, and the only problem deputies experienced during the demonstration was having enough available personnel to pursue all the drivers discovered to have warrants.


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Comments

Ray Shapiro July 2, 2009 | 10:19 p.m.

We also need cyclists to display license plates on their personal bicycles as well.
Might as well treat them equal with all these technological advancements.
After all, they want the same stature, if not greater, then us motorists.
Seems only fair.
(There might be at least one cyclist out there who rides his bicycle. instead of a car, just to avoid that bench warrant.)
Or is riding one's bicycle the last anonymous mode of wheeled transportation?
Oh, I forgot. Bike-friendly city translates to unfriendly car-town.
Ain't technology great.
Especially when it's used selectively.

(Report Comment)
Glenn Rice July 3, 2009 | 1:47 a.m.

We also need motorists to display license plates on their personal cars as well.
Might as well treat them equal with all these technological advancements.
After all, they want the same stature, if not greater, then us cyclists.
Seems only fair.
(There might be at least one motorist out there who rides his car. instead of a bicycle, just to avoid that bench warrant.)
Or is riding one's car the last anonymous mode of wheeled transportation?
Oh, I forgot. Car-friendly city translates to unfriendly bike-town.
Ain't technology great.
Especially when it's used selectively.

(Report Comment)
Glenn Rice July 3, 2009 | 2:01 a.m.

Seriously, get over the cyclist bigotry. No one's riding a bike just to avoid getting a ticket, and even if they are, so what? What business is that of yours, Ray Shapiro? "Is riding one's bicycle the last anonymous mode of wheeled transportation?" What do you care? Are you a "socialist" who wants the GOVERNMENT to take away any any anonymous form of transportation? Cause it sounds like that's what you're arguing for. Here's a thought -- Do what you want and let others enjoy the same privilege.

"Bike-friendly city translates to unfriendly car-town." -- maybe in your small mind, which can't encompass "friendly"-ness to both bikes and cars. Here's a radical idea to try to comprehend: not everything is either-or, black-and-white. Get yourself a new translator!

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro July 3, 2009 | 2:32 a.m.

@Glenn Rice:
("Here's a thought -- Do what you want and let others enjoy the same privilege.")
Does this mean we're not friends anymore and that you'd also be against drug dogs sniffing at bicycle backpacks as well?

(Report Comment)
John Schultz July 3, 2009 | 12:05 p.m.

If we continue the line of Ray's thinking, we better hire a lot more police officers to verbally question each person as they are walking down the sidewalk or at the mall, to identify them to see if they have any warrants.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr July 3, 2009 | 12:51 p.m.

Just wait until the technology hits the market where a microchip or your I.D. can be scanned from mere feet with out you knowing or realizing it and you get tagged on the spot by the law.

It is a very reasonable possibility.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro July 3, 2009 | 1:14 p.m.

@JS:
You can extrapolate any proposal, apply "a line of thinking" and infer an extreme conclusion.
If cyclists want to share the road equally with motorists, it only fits that they should display some kind of "ID tag" to avoid being "anonymous" on the public roads.
(Malls are private property and walking down the sidewalk are not advocating for the same level of "equality" that our cyclists seek.)
Considering that this town has almost 25 million dollars to experiment with on PedNet and GetAbout, it seems only appropriate to experiment with registering bikers and issuing license plates.
These license plate readers cost 20 grand a piece. Why not fold road cyclists into this new technology and elevate bicycles to the accountability level fitting to such a growing means of transportation.
MU students and others could also apply for and display "vanity" plates, and specialty plates such as:

* Conservation Heritage License Plates
* Former Prisoners of War
* Homeland Security Fight Terrorism License Plate Inform
and more.
Happy Independence Day!

(Report Comment)
John Schultz July 3, 2009 | 4:44 p.m.

Well Ray, if you drive around Columbia any length of time, you'll soon see that making motorized drivers less anonymous has not done anything to make a number of them (and quite a bit more than bicyclists) speed, run red lights, and drive in a poor manner. Why do you think licensing bikers would improve upon their alleged behavior?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr July 3, 2009 | 6:00 p.m.

>>> Why do you think licensing bikers would improve upon their alleged behavior? <<<

IMHO it would make them think more...oh dear God not that....and make them more accountable just as a normal motorist is accountable.

As it is right now it is obvious they have absolutely no accountability to any form of the law by all of the citizen comments not only here but on the Trib about their behaviors riding around our community.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking July 3, 2009 | 6:19 p.m.

Come on, face it, Chuck, people seldom report auto drivers for running red lights, etc. What makes you think that putting license plate on bicycles (which will likely be harder to read) will result in more cyclists being ticketed for infractions?

Unless you just want to make it more difficult and expensive for someone to ride a bicycle.

DK

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr July 3, 2009 | 6:39 p.m.

>>> Come on, face it, Chuck, people seldom report auto drivers for running red lights, etc. <<<

Show me numbers or all you are saying is just another meaningless conjecture. After all you are the big bad chemist employed by M.U. with all of the world's knowledge at your finger tips it should be quite easy for you to come up with the numbers you say in your post above.

We all know what a hard core PedNut you are and hardly ever drive your car at all.

If you want to be counted as an equal with motorists then you should grow up,become responsible and be licensed and properly insured just like a motorist. That is unless you are advocating that you want to shirk on your responsibility as a responsible motorist.

Oh but that is so late 60'sh thinking isn't it or is it?

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro July 3, 2009 | 7:14 p.m.

("Unless you just want to make it more difficult and expensive for someone to ride a bicycle.")
Not my intention, at all.
I just harbor a concern in the manner which our Mayor fails to build bridges between motorists and cyclists.
The wedge widens when bicycles get a free accountability/responsibility pass and motorists get hammered with fines, fees and jail time, instead of simple reminders. Automobiles are being scrutinized and put under the microscope as cyclists haphazardly dart all over town.
Personally, most forms of transportstion, except for walking, are businesses onto themselves.
I don't make one dime off of your biking, nor do I care to.
I do feel however that if cyclists cry to the mayor for harassment protection, that as a motorist, I should not feel harassed by the mayor to give up my car as he makes it too expensive to drive.
I'll become a shut-in, before I become a PedNut.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking July 4, 2009 | 2:49 a.m.

Actually, guys, I do have a driver license, and I have enough ready cash to cover any damage I might do to someones vehicle if I hit them (which is exceedingly unlikely - it's a lot harder to do distracting activities on a bicycle). Most cyclists do.

The reason it is so difficult to find hard numbers on the amount of damage caused by cyclists to motorists is that it's so minimal. The overwhelming cost in bike-car accidents is medical care for the cyclist. Separate bicycle liability insurance is not available because the risk doesn't warrant it, unlike automobiles.

It's not a problem that requires a solution. The fact that some cyclists annoy you (and I agree, if they're not following the rules, they should get a ticket like anyone else) doesn't mean you are at risk from them.

DK

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr July 4, 2009 | 4:58 a.m.

Very well presented ray shapiro. My thing is if these cyclists are wanting the same respect as all motorists on our city,county and national high ways then why shouldn't they live up to that responsibility.

Here is another think to think about. Motorcycles must be licensed and their drivers licensed and insured so why not cyclists on the road?

Alot of cyclists are demanding smoother roadways so why shouldn't they pitch in their fair share of road taxes by being properly licensed?

Just food for thought.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz July 4, 2009 | 2:06 p.m.

Chuck, cyclists pay sales tax on purchases, just like motorists, which is the major portion fo road funding in Columbia. If you want to talk about funding accountability, maybe we should get rid of the subsidy for the bus system and airports. Both are subsidized by the transportation sales tax paid by all purchasers.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr July 4, 2009 | 3:05 p.m.

Now I can agree on the Air Port 100% but now John how are you going to get those citizens who count on the bus service to their jobs in and around this city with no bus line? This includes the students when school is in full session.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz July 4, 2009 | 4:24 p.m.

Bump up the fares to cover a higher percentage of the actual cost of providing service?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr July 4, 2009 | 4:39 p.m.

The only people the higher fare would effect is those non disabled riders. Disabled riders get the half fare discounts.

(Report Comment)

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