How ALPRs can be a force multiplier for law enforcement in times of crisis

When resources are limited, and human interaction should be kept at a minimum for the betterment of public health, ALPR technology can help


By Susan Crandall

As the world adjusts to its new COVID-19 reality, people are being forced to quarantine in their homes, with the exception of essential workers who are operating on the front lines of the global health crisis.

While the public may assume policing has become easier with fewer drivers on the road and more people at home, there is an increase of security presence in locations like parks and hospitals that have officers on high alert. Law enforcement also faces hardships of limited resources to protect against this dangerous virus, an issue made scarier due to the close contact officers often have with civilians.

Today’s AI-driven ALPR software can be installed into security cameras that are already in place. (Photo/Rekor Systems)
Today’s AI-driven ALPR software can be installed into security cameras that are already in place. (Photo/Rekor Systems)

One tool law enforcement has access to that could be beneficial is automatic license plate recognition (ALPR).

ALPR technology has been around for decades and over time has evolved to offer more efficiency, accuracy and cost-effectiveness. Traditional ALPR cameras are big and bulky, costing tens of thousands of dollars despite often lacking accuracy. Additionally, traditional ALPR cameras lack a broad field of view, requiring multiple cameras to be installed to cover 2, 3, or even 4 lanes of traffic; not ideal for resource-starved agencies during a crisis.

New technology has allowed for advancement in both cameras and the software that powers them, increasing accuracy to nearly 100% and scanning coverage of up to 300 feet and 4 lanes of traffic from a single camera. Moreover, today’s AI-driven ALPR software can be installed into security cameras that are already in place, allowing them to be integrated remotely, saving thousands of dollars. Because of the decrease in cost, agencies can allocate the same funds they would typically spend on traditional ALPR cameras to additional technology to assist in their crime reduction strategies.

The current use of ALPR technology spans across a variety of crimes and civil wrongs including simple driving violations, stolen vehicles and assisting in the investigation of other crimes such as theft, burglary and kidnappings. Agencies have apprehended suspects within minutes of a crime being committed due to the access of real-time alerts, something that generally could take days to solve or even go cold. But during a time when resources are limited, and human interaction should be kept at a minimum for the betterment of public health, ALPR technology can help.

Offering remote monitoring of traffic infractions to avoid face-to-face interactions

One of the biggest challenges for law enforcement during COVID-19 is dealing with people in face-to-face interactions not knowing who is infected – either the officer or the civilian. ALPR technology offers law enforcement agencies an alternative to enforcing traffic violations without face-to-face interactions, enabling officers to stay safe, streamline their enforcement efforts and ensure roadways remain safe for those who do travel.

With less traffic on the roads, some drivers may feel safer and inclined to commit minor violations such as running red lights/stop signs or speeding. This is where ALPR technology can provide a safe alternative through automated enforcement systems. Rather than stationing an officer near a traffic light, traffic cameras with integrated ALPR technology can flag the violation, noting vehicle data such as make, model, color and tag number in real-time, and issue a ticket without any human-to-human interaction. This keeps everyone involved safe and socially distant, as it facilitates safe travel for essential personnel who must travel to and from work to deliver necessary services to our communities during this time of crisis. 

Helping local businesses stay alert and safe during extended closures

The majority of local businesses and shops have been deemed non-essential and were forced to close their doors for the foreseeable future. Sadly, this creates an opportunity for theft, looting, vandalism and more.

ALPR technology can be used on-site as a security tool, alerting business owners if an unauthorized vehicle has entered the property. Owners can create white lists for permitted vehicles and receive an alert when a non-authorized vehicle enters the property. When the system flags a vehicle, property/business owners are notified instantly, providing them the opportunity to alert authorities before they incur too much damage, or the suspect leaves the vicinity or jurisdiction. With so many empty buildings and properties, ALPR can act as a second set of eyes for areas not routinely patrolled by police.

Although there are still major roadway incidents that need immediate attention, ALPR technology can help alleviate the stress and concern agencies are currently handling. We must put the health and safety of the general public first, but we also want to ensure that our frontline heroes are taking the necessary measures to look after their own health and safety. With a proven track record, ALPR technology has become a viable resource to law enforcement and can be a predominant force in the industry as the nation works towards getting back to normalcy. 


About the author

Susan Crandall is the chief marketing officer at Rekor. She brings two decades of business experience in the data and technology field, holding leadership roles in business development, product development, market strategy and marketing at brands such as Motorola Solutions and LexisNexis. Susan brings a deep knowledge of ALPR technology and its deployment in a broad array of markets, including government and public safety, corporate security, financial services, insurance and parking. Susan can be reached at susan@rekorsystems.com.

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