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Plano Police to Spend $500,000 on New License Plate Readers

The city's contract for Motorola Solutions cameras will last for five years.

Plano police will use license plate camera readers that law enforcement says assists in recovering stolen vehicles and locating abducted children.

The City Council approved on May 22 the Plano Police Department’s purchase of 40 L5Q and 10 L6Q Motorola deployable license plate reader cameras with a five-year service subscription. The purchase will cost $100,000 annually and a total of $500,000 through an existing contract.

Other Texas cities, like Dallas and Fort Worth, have implemented similar technology. While license plate camera readers have sparked privacy concerns, Plano law enforcement say they are worth the investment and prove essential for public safety.

“The Plano Police Department has been utilizing ALPR (automated license plate recognition) cameras mounted on vehicles for over a decade,” Plano police lieutenant Glenn Cavin told The Dallas Morning News. “They have since led directly to the recovery of stolen vehicles and the apprehension of many wanted suspects.”

Motorola Solutions’ L6Q reader combines “sophisticated license plate recognition (LPR) with consumer-grade ease of installation,” according to the company website, and the L5Q enables law enforcement to “receive real-time alerts, conduct comprehensive searches and leverage advanced analytics.”

The cameras’ optical character recognition algorithms “read” the characters on license plates. Then, the data is compared to hot lists containing collected registrations that would be of interest to public safety agencies, which includes statewide alerts, outstanding arrest warrants and registered sex offenders, to name a few.

But the police department said in a memo to the City Council that the vehicle-mounted systems have limitations. Data captures are relegated to where large first responder vehicles are driven and apprehension proves challenging when an identified vehicle is traveling in a different direction.

Cavin said the new systems will be placed on poles adjacent to roadways and business parking lots that have been labeled by crime analysts as hot spots for criminal activity.

“If a vehicle that is included in state or local lists as stolen or associated with criminal activity is detected by one of the cameras, alerts can be promptly sent to all on-duty officers, criminal investigators and support personnel so they can respond appropriately and intervene in criminal activity,” Cavin said.

The technology’s identification of vehicles parked unlawfully has led to substantial improvements in efficiency compared to the manual chalking process, he said. The chalking process consists of police marking vehicles with chalk to track how long they have been parked in a spot.

Cavin said the department has a policy in place that only authorizes the use of the systems for legitimate police business. He added that the department prohibits the release of any data collected to the public and that the systems can only be accessed by authorized personnel.

Reports of improper use of the equipment will be investigated by the Professional Standards Unit, Cavin said.

“There has been full transparency with the community, including the public posting of our directive online,” Cavin said.

The directive says that the policy of the department is to only use the technology as authorized and directed by department policy and federal and state law.

“The ALPR system, equipment and data captured by ALPR equipment shall be used only for legitimate law enforcement purposes,” the directive says.

©2023 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.