By Tom Joyce, NYPD Retired Lieutenant Commander of Detectives, Vigilant Solutions VP of Business Development
Most conversations about License Plate Recognition technology inevitably focus on the camera. Maybe that’s because the cameras can easily be seen and touched. But, the real power is in the LPR data gathered from the cameras. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times. It’s all about the data – especially when it comes to law enforcement investigations. Cameras capture data and data helps solve crimes.
The LPR camera serves a dual, targeted purpose: to capture anonymous, publicly available license plate data and to send alerts to a police car. But, it is what goes on behind the scenes, after the data is captured, that makes LPR such a valuable tool for law enforcement. When the data evolves into more than just data – when it becomes vehicle location intelligence – that’s when it becomes a force multiplier for law enforcement in three specific ways (1) analytics; (2) prediction and (3) real-time alerts.
Vehicle location intelligence is a proven game changer that helps law enforcement develop leads, solve crimes and stay safe on the job. Let’s explore these three items further.
How does analytics power the data? It does this through robust analytic capabilities that enable law enforcement agencies to develop leads and solve crimes quicker and more efficiently.
In a matter of minutes, one officer sitting at his or her desk can identify a potential lead in a pattern or serial crime simply by analyzing historical data to develop vehicle location intelligence. Here’s how - data filters like year, make, model, time, date and location enable officers to rapidly verify which license plates were scanned in the area around a set of crime scenes. The key here is that officers are receiving more than a data dump of scans from a camera, they are getting actionable, workable intelligence. From here, a common plate analysis can help identify a plate common to multiple crime scenes.
In law enforcement, knowing is better than guessing. Once a plate, or vehicle of interest is identified, the same historical data can help investigators predict where that vehicle can be found. By reviewing previous scans and scoring methodology, investigators can identify a set of locations where the vehicle is most likely to be, and even give investigators the location type (e.g. residences or businesses).
Then, investigators can compare how many times a vehicle has been “seen” versus the number of times an LPR unit scanned at that location for a percentage seen; essentially reporting a canvas “seen” rate. Again, this is developing further vehicle location intelligence for investigators, while maximizing resources.
All thanks to the power of the data.
3. Real-Time Alerts
Officers’ situational awareness is improved through real-time alerts. Let’s explore a hypothetical investigation. Investigators identified a vehicle and the locations where the vehicle is most likely to be found. Investigators now have sufficient reason to add the license plate to a hotlist of vehicles of interest.
Because of this intelligence, the investigators send officers to the suspect’s likely residence and place of work; however, the vehicle isn’t there, but the officers are posted to wait for its return.
At the same time, a patrol officer across town (or even an officer across the state), receives a real-time alert as they pass the vehicle of interest on a hotlist at a shopping mall.
With permissible purpose to access DMV records and determine the owner of the vehicle under the Driver Privacy Protection Act, the officer is able to determine the driver has a history of violence and aggression. This real-time data leads to a call for backup. The officers apprehend the person of interest without incident and turn the suspect over to the investigators.
Because of data, all vehicle location intelligence in the scenario I described above – from identification, to location prediction, to real-time situational intelligence for officers – is possible.
Agencies that understand the investigative power of vehicle location intelligence are generating more leads, solving more crimes, apprehending more violent offenders, enhancing officer safety and better protecting the communities they serve.
In the end, that’s what it’s all about.
Tom Joyce is a retired member of the NYPD in the rank of Lieutenant Commander of Detectives. He commanded the NYPD Cold Case Squad upon his retirement and additionally held many other roles within the detective and organized crime bureaus. Prior to working with Vigilant Solutions, Tom was the Director of Law Enforcement Market Planning for LexisNexis Government Services. Tom often lectures on various subject matters relating to Homicide Investigations and has published numerous articles on criminal investigations. Tom is currently a member of the International Homicide Investigators Association’s Advisory Board.
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