License plate readers helping police track down stolen cars

SPOKANE, Wash. - License plate readers

Spokane police now has a new weapon in the war on crime. The department just installed new license plate readers so they can find your car quickly if it gets stolen.

Until last week, there were two police cruisers with two cameras on the front of the car to check license plates as they pass by. Now they've changed the entire system and added cameras to the side so they can check places like parking lots for stolen cars.

When Officer Dan Cole cruises through Spokane searching for stolen cars all he has to do is drive. The automated license plate readers on the top of his vehicle do the rest.

"It will read 25 feet away from the camera, but I think sometimes we get reads that are a little further than that," Cole said.

The cameras constantly scan passing cars and run the plates to alert if the car is reported stolen or if it's been used in a crime. They do it all faster than an officer can write the numbers down let alone check the database.

"Most of the license plates you pass read back as the correct plate, whereas the other system was kind of hit and miss," Cole said.

Instead of having just two cameras on top of two cruisers like the police department used to, four cameras now search for boosted cars in front and on the side of the car. It also adds to an officer's instinct.

"I've had several cars that i wouldn't even had taken a second look at that the machine has told me is a stolen car," Cole said.

And if you're wondering if the technology works, the new system helped make one arrest in the first week on the job. It's also scanned as many plates in one week as the old system did in one month.

The automated license plate readers are fully paid for by state grant money, and the Spokane Police Department expects to have a total of five cars equipped with these cameras by next year.