Dearborn Heights City Council unanimously approved Police Chief Mark Meyer’s request on Nov. 9 to use Justice Aid grant funding to rent and pay for five license plate readers.
The license plate readers, LPRs that would be strategically deployed at major intersections, would help identify stolen vehicles, those used to commit crimes, and those associated with a missing or vulnerable person.
Meyers said one of his original goals when he became boss was to make better use of technology to serve their community.
âLicense plate readers are just one more piece of the puzzle that helps protect and serve our citizens,â he said. “There are two types: mobile and stationary, and we’re looking at the stationary ones right now.”
The license plate data is uploaded to a central database and can be searched and shared with other law enforcement agencies. Each reader can process the data of up to 30,000 vehicles per day, including vehicle model and properties such as color, accessories and differentiators such as bumper stickers.
Meyers said it can help prevent crime and rescue missing people. He said if a victim described a white Crown Victoria and knew the first two characters of the license plate, the database could look up that description and determine if and when a vehicle that met the criteria passed an intersection with an LPR.
“That would give us an investigative lead that would allow us to solve the crime,” he said. “It would narrow the results and go from a needle in a haystack to tangible data about cars driving through our city.”
Meyers said a police officer could be sitting at a traffic light and if there was a vehicle next to the patrol car identified by an LPR, the cop would be notified in real time that there was a missing, wanted or at risk person or person with an arrest warrant right next to them.
“It doesn’t collect data like a cell phone,” he said. âIt doesn’t collect pictures of people. It records the rear of your vehicle and the data from this sign. “
Meyers said if they have a good description of a vehicle that is involved in an armed robbery, when the vehicle passes an LPR in another city, that will provide a timeframe for the vehicle and the route it followed, what in turn, provides information about where the suspect might live.
He said if the city had a rash from home invasions and a neighbor takes a vehicle picture on a doorbell camera, officials can go through the LPR data based on the vehicle description and try to match it to a license plate and then eliminate or profile a suspect create.
“It’s an investigative tool at a very low cost,” said Meyers. “We use the federal enforcement, which is the intention – to help our community.”
He said the LPRs do not take a picture of an occupant of a vehicle who has run over a red light, for example. However, it can warn police officers that a searched vehicle has just passed a certain intersection.
Councilor Dave Abdallah asked if LPRs could track and record a person’s movements through their vehicle, such as visiting a mosque or bar, and when and how often.
“There are a lot of people who are concerned about privacy breaches,” he said. “They are concerned that the government knows more information about us than we’d like.”
Meyers said a search warrant must be obtained before a vehicle can be tracked in any way.
“We’re not tracking anyone,” he said. âWe collect data that is easily available to the public – that’s why we have license plates so we know who vehicles are registered with. We respond to a crime and develop an investigative approach based on the data that is available on the street to anyone who collects the same data. “
Meyers said law enforcement agencies are using technology to “superpower” the technique.
“We know right now that we have a problem with vehicles being stolen from this area,” he said. “So if we can draw attention to one of these cars before another vehicle illegally drives away, we can prevent a crime by stopping that perpetrator.”
City Attorney Gary Miotke said the information collected by the LPRs is more objective than looking at a driver and thinking, “that person looks suspicious”.
âNow you are relying on something that technology is going through, where the information has already been passed, and that gives you I believe a higher level of reliability, which is more likely to lead to a likely cause, as opposed to a stop to someone who does less objective things, âhe said. “So, I think this is a very good tool.”
Meyers said Dearborn currently has license plate readers and Dearborn Heights officials have access to this data.
Flock, the sole source of Falcon LPRs, rents each device for $ 2,500 annually, including installation, service, and cellular connectivity. They can be solar powered or permanently connected to a power source. The Flock Falcon LPRs are also compatible with one of the body-worn camera companies that is in the final stages of the law enforcement bidding process.
Meyers asked the council to approve funds from the recovery fund, after which he would seek a refund through Wayne County’s JAG funding.
“These are very powerful tools, and it’s another investigative tool,” he said. âThese are not violations. In Michigan, we can’t reveal violations from a photo. “
As soon as the effectiveness of the five LPRs at key entry and exit points within the city has been assessed, Meyers hopes to further expand the use of LPRs.