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CPD license plate device racks up 116,000 ‘reads’

Posted: September 30, 2009 - 10:06pm

The Conway Police Department’s new automatic license plate recognition unit has “read” more than 116,000 license plates since it was installed in a CPD patrol car in May.

The unit, called a Police Automatic License Plate Recognition Graphical Interface System (PAGIS), is linked to Arkansas Crime Information Center/National Crime Information Center (ACIC/NCIC), and automatically cross references license plate numbers with recorded stolen vehicles/license plates, sex offenders, parolees and probationers.

There have been startup problems with the system. PAGIS has been down a few times since its inception as a result of “the occasional software crash” or a failure of one of the system’s several cameras, according to CPD public information officer Sharen Carter. Still, when it’s worked, it’s proven capable of “reading” as many as 4,143 license plates per day. So far, PAGIS has had 12 “hits” for license plates linked to parole/probation violators or stolen vehicles. Most of these “hits” have resulted in arrests, Carter said.

The Conway City Council voted in December to buy the unit at a cost of $29,205 — close to the cost of a new patrol car. Four patrolmen have been trained to operate the system, and the PAGIS-equipped patrol car is being driven almost around-the-clock, though the officers still must respond to calls as they normally would and can’t dedicate themselves to “trawling” for errant license plates.

PAGIS works through an array of cameras mounted atop and at the rear of the patrol car which send images to a laptop computer mounted inside the vehicle, which uses image recognition software to identify the shape of a license plate and the characters on it. The officer is presented with a still image of passing vehicles and a smaller image of the license plate and the numbers and letters the software has interpreted from the image. If the license plate is linked with an offense, the officer is given a visual and audible alert.

The system isn’t perfect. The number recognition software makes an occasional mistake, Carter said, such as identifying a “3” as an “8” or an “A” as a “R,” though it often “corrects” itself as the patrol car’s orientation to the other vehicle changes in traffic. The system also cannot recognize state license plates. For example, if Iowa license plate 123 ABC was reported stolen, license plates ABC 123 registerd to every state would register as a PAGIS “hit,” and the officer would have to confirm that the license plate was from the appropriate state.

Still, it works well enough that an officer passing a line of stopped traffic or driving slowly through a shopping center parking lot can “read” the license plate of almost every car he or she passes and log the license plate number, along with the time, location and a still image of the vehicle.

Conway Chief of Police A. J. Gary said to the Conway City Council in December that the system could also be of use after-the-fact when investigators are dealing with a criminal incident, as the system logs the license plate and photos of vehicles in a given area at a given time.

The city’s Information Technology Department is working to broaden PAGIS’ horizons. In the near future, PAGIS will be linked to CPD’s warrants database and the unit will alert officers to vehicles registered to persons with outstanding warrants or unpaid fines, Carter said, greatly increasing its use to the department by bringing absconders back into the realm of the courts and netting more unpaid fines and fees.

Carter said she hoped this added capability would send a message to citizens to address their outstanding legal issues at a time that would be convenient to them, rather than at a time of fate’s and CPD’s choosing.

“Take care of your warrants and then you won’t have anything to worry about,” she said.

 

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Concerned Citizen
6
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Concerned Citizen 10/01/09 - 05:40 am
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Big brother is watching.

Big brother is watching.

modnar
276
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modnar 10/01/09 - 09:38 am
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Abuse of this technology

I think this technology has good uses as far as checking plates to look for warrants, stolen cars, etc. However, keeping a log of the times and locations of all citizens the car passes is ridiculous.

Our City Council needs to be made aware of this invasion of privacy and should put a stop to it.

ucantbserious
29097
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ucantbserious 10/01/09 - 11:26 am
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Well hold on there, modnar

It's not invasion of privacy when you're out in public. We are videotaped all the time when out in public.

braydin
902
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braydin 10/01/09 - 12:03 pm
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RE: Well hold on there, modnar

Yes but no one goes thru the tapes and catalogs where we are at any given time. This is an abuse of the technology!

Welcome to 1984. Yes BB is watching.

ucantbserious
29097
Points
ucantbserious 10/01/09 - 12:24 pm
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To braydin

They won't be cataloging the whereabouts of each vehicle taped. It is just used in reference to a crime. Say this patrol car happens to be driving down the street of a neighborhood where a house is currently being broken into that they don't know about. Later, when the crime is reported they can review the tape and see if there were any suspicious vehicles there that weren't suppoed to be. Vehicles that were recorded but not flagged at the time because there were no crimes associated with its owner at that time.

modnar
276
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modnar 10/01/09 - 02:55 pm
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Well hold on there, ucantbserious :)

Why would you say they would not be cataloging? Sure, they're not going to physically look at a video tape. The whole point of the system is that it is automated.

As I read the article, the computer is recording the date/time/location of every license plate it scans. Apparently that is being saved for some amount of time, as the Chief mentions it could be used to see who was around when a crime was committed.

And, while it may not be a true violation of privacy, it is definitely the CPD overreaching and abusing power.

jaywilsonwork
79
Points
jaywilsonwork 10/01/09 - 03:24 pm
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IF I had a small child kidnapped from a local ballpark...

I would want law enforcement to have the capability to visit with every car owner who had been there. Anything that could help generate a lead would be welcome.

5away
406
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5away 10/01/09 - 03:24 pm
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modnar

So if something horrible were to happen to your family you wouldn't want this type of technology to be used to help solve the crime. If that is the case then you truly need to check your priorities. Or maybe you have something to hide.

5away
406
Points
5away 10/01/09 - 03:55 pm
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example

So if i take a picture of your car in the parking lot of wal mart, thats and invasion of your privacy.

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

In case you don't know that is the 4th amendment. I don't think a picture taken by law enforcement is an unreasonable search or seizure.

justwantdanews
58
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justwantdanews 10/01/09 - 04:35 pm
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Got something to hide?

Why all the concern about the recording on where your car is? Are you creeping around town to somewhere you shouldn't be and afraid of being caught? If that's the issue perhaps you shouldn't travel to places you don't want to be seen.

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