Friday, March 23, 2012

Automated License Plate Recognition

If you have driven through Meridian Township lately and have seen a MTPD police car you may have noticed the black boxes on the outside of the vehicles. Those black boxes are cameras and they are constantly taking pictures of license plates of passing vehicles. 

The Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) system was provided to the Meridian Township Police Department through a federal grant last year. This project was supported by Byrne JAG grant, awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and administered by the Michigan State Police (MSP).  Points of view or opinions contained within this document do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the MSP or DOJ.

 Since that time we have received several of these systems, and have given several cameras to area agencies (Ingham Co. Sheriff, Lansing PD, East Lansing PD, MSU PD). Three cameras are mounted on the outside of the car and another is mounted inside. These cameras are weatherproof and durable. They are pointed in different directions so they can read license plates in front of the patrol car, behind the patrol car, and cars that are parked perpendicular to the patrol (this is handy for cars in a parking lot). One of the cameras uses infrared technology to read the license plates in the dark. 

 The ALPR utilizes state-of-the-art multi-process plate recognition technology that enables multiple “plate image streams” to be processed through multiple recognition engines concurrently. This means many more “views” of the plate and many diverse recognition techniques being applied. As a camera "sees" a license plate in it's vicinity it will take a photograph of the plate. This photograph is then geotagged with the location, date, and time. The information is stored in a database and can be accessed by the road patrol units at any time. When the picture of the license plate is taken the rest of the rear of the vehicle can be seen. This is helpful because we will have a photo that shows the color, make, model, and other identifying things on the vehicle such as dents, scrapes, and bumper stickers. 

 We are able to input certain license plates we may be looking for. Let's say there is an Amber Alert for a missing and endangered child and the suspect's license plate is known. We can input the license plate into the ALPR as a critical plate. If any of our patrol cars pass the vehicle and the ALPR reads this license plate an alarm in our computers will sound signaling the presence of the wanted vehicle. There are many examples of successful implementation of the ALPR all over the country. In one instance the ALPR caught the license plate of a known sex offender driving in an elementary school parking lot. The sex offender drove through the lot over thirty times in one month! Through the investigation it became known the sex offender was not there because he had a child there but because he was looking for his next victim!



The ALPR system is fairly new to Meridian Township. We look forward to using this tool to assist us in making the community safer for everyone!

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