Licence plate recognition

ALPR software resides in a uniquely equipped police car’s electronic system and provides data analysis to the police officer

The “Horseman’s” ride moves slowly through the parking lot, cruising cars, vans and trucks, quietly seeking those methods of transportation which might harbor criminals and others bent on doing society wrong.

The scrutinizer is an RCMP police car, equipped with ALPR, or Automatic License Plate Recognition system. It was used extensively in the investigation of Sparwood, B.C.’s Kienan Hebert’s abduction and the search for suspect Randall Hopley.

The RCMP across Canada and B.C. municipality officers scanned 3,600 vehicles per hour, per police vehicle. During the intense search, upwards of 144,000 vehicle plates were checked per hour by the 40 police cars equipped with the high tech cameras, looking for Hopley’s vehicle. Given each shift is 12 hours in length, theoretically, 1,728,000 plates could be scanned looking for the accused pedophile.

Appropriately named, “Boss” (Back Office System Server), the ALPR software resides in the uniquely equipped police car’s electronic system and provides data analysis to the police officer. Images from four light bar mounted, high intensity, dual lens infrared cameras are projected and saved to BOSS in color. The color base, in contrast to black and white, creates a solid evidentiary record and a highly recognizable image immediately available to the officer.

The license plate’s coating is particularly reflective to the infrared system. One vehicle, attempting to evade detection, turned the plate backwards, hoping the lack of reflective paint would prevent a reading. It did not.

ALPR includes OCR, or optical character recognition, which recognizes printed characters and converts them into data. OCR acknowledges the irregularities of plate sizes and designs and therefore sent an audible signal to the operating officer and the stolen vehicle and driver were apprehended.      ALPR reads partial plates, street addresses, GPS coordinates and provides a time and date of the recognition to BOSS.

Stolen vehicles, wanted criminals, AMBER Alerts, abductions and other law enforcement apprehension desires create a shared data base throughout Canada and the United States, stored in BOSS. If, in the recent case of Washington State convicted felon Luis Partida-Ramirez, wanted in British Columbia, the vehicle data was immediately given to the RCMP and scanning began instantly.

The mobile system is in addition to stationary cameras in various municipalities, airports, border crossings and freeway systems which capture the same data as your vehicle passes the mounted lenses.

RCW believes Vancouver Police Department would be wise to extrapolate BOSS technology by installing anchored cameras with face recognition software in light of the recent riots to provide instant face recognition data to officers manning the system. The photos appearing on the Vancouver Police Department’s rioter’s web site: riot2011.vpd.ca, would, theoretically, create the data base for any future public venue.

What’s your take on this unique technology? Do you feel that the obvious benefit of capturing criminals and others bent on harming society outweighs any infringement of civil rights? Or do you, as many of the Vancouver rioters will undoubtedly scream, feel we have become a police state with Big Brother watching our every move?

Have we, as many political pundents claim, given up more than we’ve gained after 9/11? Or, do we accept the loss of certain civil rights in lieu of protecting the greater good….society as a whole?

Catching a fleeing pedophile has to rank very high on everyone’s list as a “greater good” but what about those rioters who, now sober, have apologized for their aberrant behavior, made amends and want a second chance?

Lapse in judgment or not, the next time the rioters attend a public venue anywhere, they will be recognized, scrutinized and watched by those on patrol, alert for any deviant behavior.

Rural Crime Watch welcomes your input at www.ruralcrimewatch.com and on Facebook.

By Jonathan McCormick and Denny Fahrentholz