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New Technology Locates Stolen Cars

Updated on March 9, 2008

If you steal a car, you’re gonna get caught.

Several patrol cars in Kent, Washington, a city south of Seattle, have been equipped with new technology that will help the police locate stolen cars a lot faster. This technology is in the form of an infrared camera attached to the top of the patrol car. The camera scans and reads the license plates of all the surrounding cars. It can pick up the plates while travelling at either fast or slow speeds, from any direction, in any weather, and even at night.

The camera takes pictures of the license plates, and runs them through a statewide database to match them with any plates that have been reported stolen. When the camera makes a match, the officer is alerted inside of the car by a siren noise and a red bar shows up on the computer screen.

Efficiency in Technology

In a typical shift, a police patroller can manually scan between 150 and 200 cars. But with the new technology, 5200 cars can be scanned in one shift. The cameras are equipped to scan multiple cars at a time, in any weather. Even when visibility is poor, the cameras can still effectively do their job.

Instead of forcing the officers to manually type the numbers into their computers, the system does all of this work. This means that the police officers can focus more on driving and patrolling instead of examining license plates and inputting data.

The police car only needs to be in the vicinity of the car to locate it. While driving through a crowded parking lot, the patrol car that is equipped with these cameras can use the program’s GPS system to quickly track the car.

These cameras cost $30,000 for each patrol car, but a lot of cities believe it is worth the investment in the long run.

Future Benefits

Currently, only license plates are being checked with this system, but the software can cross-check up to four different databases. This means there is potential for using this program to help check for both felony warrants and Amber Alerts.

Amber Alerts are currently posted across the country on freeway signs, but this technology would give police officers more tools to find cars of interest in these cases.


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