Sponsored by Jenoptik
By Victor Masters for Police1 BrandFocus
Nationwide, law enforcement agencies are dealing with staffing shortages and a lack of new recruits to fill the ever-widening gaps in staffing. To make matters worse, budget woes as a result of COVID-19-related economic slowdowns and other societal issues are putting additional strain on already understaffed agencies. As a result, many agencies are looking to ways to better leverage technology to make their public safety efforts more efficient and focused while also being conscious about their budgets.
Dedicating one or more officers to case specific locations for hours or days in order to spot and apprehend a vehicle of interest is no longer feasible ─ or necessary ─ now that the automatic license plate reader (ALPR) can do the same job more efficiently.
Because of their ability to act as a force multiplier, ALPRs have become commonplace in many major cities to monitor parking, traffic, incoming/outgoing potential criminal or terrorist threats and other public-safety-related applications. The ALPR’s ability to monitor traffic and predict vehicle movements and behaviors allows agencies to reduce the amount of time needed to find vehicles or interest and effectively deploy officers in the field.
Managing a remote patrol
As a former U.S. Border Patrol Agent, I was occasionally stationed at remote checkpoints in the deserts of California, along common routes related to human and narcotic smuggling. Early detection of suspect vehicles on the highways is critical to allowing teams of agents to quickly get in place to intercept said vehicle and set up a secondary position if the vehicle attempts to flee.
Having a mobile, advanced LPR stationed in those areas to alert us to suspect vehicles would have saved the work of six to eight agents per day to monitor traffic, freeing us up to better spend our time patrolling the highways and surrounding areas. Fortunately, today agencies have access to mobile ALPRs that make it faster and easier to positively identify hot list and other suspect vehicles within seconds of passing the ALPR camera.
“It’s essentially having a permanent police officer stationed at any location they choose,” said Corlan McDonald, a solutions architect manager at Jenoptik. “[Agencies] no longer have to have somebody sitting out there for hours on the day, creating the sort of information pool that the camera alone would do.”
Remote locations often do not have any lighting in the form of streetlights or ambient lights from nearby businesses or residences. Trying to acquire a license plate in the dark with headlights bearing down on you can be an extremely hard task for any officer to accomplish repeatedly throughout the course of a shift, thus potentially allowing target vehicles to go by unnoticed.
That’s why the quality of an ALPR camera matters.
The Jenoptik VECTOR camera is capable of reading up to three lanes of high-speed traffic in even the most challenging of conditions, which is something impossible for any single officer to accomplish via manual input. The VECTOR’s patented infra-red flood light technology illuminates the night to provide a clearer picture and scan of even vehicles passing at high speeds.
Built to operate indefinitely
Just as ALPR cameras are not all the same quality, neither are the mobile trailers that enable them to be transported.
ALPR systems that rely on gas-powered generators, hard-wired electrical power or electric batteries often require fuel to be brought to them, electricity at the location of the ALPR or the trailers to be brought back to the station to recharge. In remote locations, having to bring the ALPR system back to the station for recharging can eat up a lot of time and resources.
“It requires agencies to now reallocate an officer’s time from doing police work, to now having to do this laborious task of pulling a trailer back to the office, leaving the battery to charge for about 12 hours and then having to do the same thing in reverse,” said McDonald. “You’ve also lost the capability offered by the device in the first place, so it’s really a double negative in that sense.”
That’s why Jenoptik has designed its ALPR mobile units with high efficiency solar panels and batteries so it’s “set-and-forget” in that it can operate nearly indefinitely in most climates that receive good sunlight.
“We’ve deployed a good number of trailers to Texas. They’ve never had a need to pull those trailers ever because of the systems design and the fact that they’re deployed in place where they’re getting sun all the time,” said McDonald. “Our customers were accustomed to pulling, recharging and deploying trailers every few days to a week. As you can imagine, this saved them considerable amounts of time, money and effort.”
High eye for a clearer view
The mobility of the Jenoptik ALPR trailer also allows it to be easily moved from location to location based on intelligence reports of where it would be best deployed. In most jurisdictions, the mobile trailer is not designated as a fixed checkpoint and therefore does not require a permit or county/municipal authorization.
“An agency can easily deploy the trailer anywhere they want or redeploy very quickly,” said McDonald. “If it was a fixed camera and they had it at intersections A and B, but want to move it to C and D, they’d have to get a permit to move that fixed camera. Whereas with the trailer, they just move it on demand.”
Unlike most other trailers, the Jenoptik trailer affixes the ALPR camera on an extendable mast that can be raised or lowered to afford a clearer view of multiple lanes of traffic.
Tie a timeline and evidence together
An advanced ALPR system like Jenoptik’s VECTOR system can be a valuable asset to recovering stolen vehicles, vehicles associated with crimes and more applications. With auto thefts and carjacking incidents at all-time highs, not just the ability to intercept and recover the vehicle but also the ability to accurately track the movement of stolen vehicles and tie them in the crime itself is an invaluable piece of evidence. It helps to demonstrate the movement of the suspect to and or from the scene of the crime and piece together a time frame to assist prosecutors.
“We often get told that our advanced analytics does in a few minutes what it would take several detectives weeks or months to piece together,” said McDonald.
Whether you head an agency that works in the busiest of cities or the most remote parts of the country, the Jenoptik VECTOR ALPR camera with a mobile trailer can provide for more targeted, intelligence-driven enforcement based on your needs and add a level of precision and efficiency without breaking your budget.
Visit Jenoptik for more information.
About the author
Victor Masters is an active-duty police officer for a municipal police department in western Washington. He began his career in 2010 with the U.S. Border Patrol in El Centro, California. He has served as a patrol officer, forensic artist, intelligence agent and public affairs agent. Since 2016, he has been assigned as a public information officer and recruiter.