ELSAG ALPR A Success In Florence, SC
Florence deputies to use new license plate scanners
Readers utilize database to provide fast feedback on vehicles
By: TUCKER MITCHELL | SCNow
Published: May 19, 2012
FLORENCE, S.C. --
The Florence County Sheriff’s Office will be entering the high-tech world of surveillance sometime next month.
Hard on the heels of the Johnsonville Police Department.
Florence County Council approved the purchase of two License Plate Recognition systems (license plate readers) for FCSO at its meeting last week. The readers are being purchased from ELSAG North American for $46,258. The money is coming from FCSO’s budget.
The readers, mounted on sheriff’s department patrol cars, can scan and “read” as many 3,600 license plates per minute. The numbers are then compared to a computerized database, giving officers fast feedback on a particular vehicle.
The police department in tiny Johnsonville – which is in the FCSO jurisdiction – has been using the readers for several months. Chief Ron Douglas is still raving about it and clamoring for more.
“We haven’t captured a ‘most wanted’ yet or anything,” said Douglas, “but we’ve put it to good use. We’ve caught so many uninsured motorists or drivers with a suspended license … you wouldn’t believe it. That’s a success story in and of itself.”
Douglas says there’s also anecdotal evidence that the reader is working as a deterrent. Citizens have told him they’re being more diligent in keeping tags and license up to date because they know the reader is on the prowl. And, the number of “hits” JPD is seeing is coming down, too, “which suggests we’re having some effect,” Douglas said. “That’s what you want.”
Douglas said he’d like to equip all three of his police cars with readers. That might seem like a big expenditure for a small town, but the readers “pay for themselves,” Johnson said.
He said JPD writes $10,000 per month in citations directly attributable to the reader, which scans 10-20 times more plates per hour than officers used to be able to scan visually.
Douglas said it’s “a little frustrating” to see all that money flowing through his office, but not into it. The state gets 55 percent of all citation revenue.
In bustling Richland County, the figure is even higher, said Sheriff Leon Lott.
RCSO has three readers, two mounted on marked vehicles and one on an unmarked car. The readers are rotated throughout the county’s seven patrol regions and have aided Lott’s office in recovering stolen vehicles, stolen tags and vehicles driven by suspects who were wanted.
They’s also utilizied by a “handicapped/expired tag” unit. Reader hits for expired regular or handicapped tags are forwarded to this unit, which locates the owner.
“Normally these people have not paid their taxes, too,” wrote Lott in an email. “Once we contact them, they take care of both which generates revenue for the county and state.”
Lott says RCSO averages about $1 million per year through the overall expired tag program, most of it generated by reader “hits.” And because much of the revenue is tax dollars, as opposed to fines, Richland County – the sheriff’s department in particular – gets to keep it.
“This more than pays for the tag readers in addition to the recovery of stolen vehicles and arrest of the bad guys,” wrote Lott.
Florence County Sheriff Kenney Boone, a close friend of Lott, said he’s hoping for similar results.
“We think it can generate some revenue,” said Boone last week. “Of course, that’s not the main purpose, but we think that’s a good way for us to use our money wisely, too.”
Boone said FCSO borrowed some fixed base readers from SLED during its “Operation Strikeforce” crackdown a couple weeks ago and were amazed at the amount of data.
“It was just pouring in,” he said. “We had them out on I-95 and we scanned something like 20,000 plates.”
The ELSAG reader can scan plates from every state and Canada. The scans are then compared to a national database, meaning fugitives and scofflaws from outside the state can wind up in the bag, too.
The reader feed is used with a standard issue mobile data terminal (MDT) or laptop that is connected wireless to servers carrying the necessary data.