The Los Angeles Police Department is testing a mobile, computerized camera system that could improve its chances of arresting car thieves, says the Los Angeles Times. Auto theft accounts for nearly a quarter of property crimes. The system uses tiny digital cameras – hand-held or mounted on the top of a police car – to scan license plates and compare them to a state database of 123,000 stolen vehicles. The cameras can capture up to 2,000 images an hour on the freeway, in parking lots, or on streets.
“You drive down the street and it literally pulls up every single car plate and tells you whether it’s stolen,” said Det. Bob Graybill. “This is going to change everything.” Like price scanners in grocery checkout lines, the results are virtually instantaneous, meaning an officer is alerted the moment the system focuses on the plate of a vehicle that has been reported stolen. With infrared capacity, the cameras can be used in the dark. The department hopes to get funding help – at $20,000 to $30,000 per device – from the insurance industry and towing companies, which benefit from the recovery of stolen vehicles.