MEDINA TWP. — Township police are using a new digital license plate reader that helps them recover stolen vehicles and locate individuals who have warrants out for their arrest.
Using two cameras mounted on the back of a patrol car, the Mobile Plate Hunter 900 captures images of license plates and instantaneously enters them into a nationwide database.
“On an average shift, it picks up between 1,500 and 2,000 plates while I’m patrolling. Just doing it manually, I could only run 100 or so, and that’s with a lot of typing,” officer Jesse Bynum said.
Red lights flash and a screeching alarm sounds to alert police whenever the cruiser passes a stolen vehicle or a car belonging to someone with an arrest warrant. The reader also picks up on stolen license plates, protection orders, missing persons and gang and terrorist watch lists.
“So if someone had a protection order on Hamlin Road, and (the suspect) is sitting there in their car, I could see what they are doing. They could be stalking someone or worse,” Bynum said.
It picks up vehicles passing by and on roads perpendicular to the cruiser. A cruiser traveling at 70 miles an hour could still get a read on a vehicle also passing at 70 mph, he said.
“One-hundred and forty miles an hour and they can still pick up a plate,” he said.
The equipment, which costs approximately $20,000, was paid for with a Homeland Security grant, Police Chief David Arbogast said.
Police applied for the grant in January in hopes of receiving it by 2012, but leftover federal dollars allowed the state to allocate funds to purchase the equipment within 90 days.
Two days after the reader was installed, police arrested a man whose plate came back as having a non-support warrant out of the Medina County Sheriff’s Office.
The system is not without glitches. It picks up on any set of numbers, including mailboxes and other signs.
One mailbox on Fenn Road frequently reads as a stolen car in Texas.
“It’s an obvious misread,” Bynum said. “You just reject it and go on with your day.”
Contact Lisa Hlavinka at (330) 721-4048 or firstname.lastname@example.org.