License Plate Cameras Catching Criminals

POSTED: Tuesday, February 3, 2009 - 5:41pm

UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 10:57pm

A new Baton Rouge program is helping cops return stolen cars back to their owners and it may also help to reduce auto insurance rates. As our David D’Aquin found out, it’s as easy as driving a car.

It’s called the License Plate Reader and the Baton Rouge PD has been using it since August. Cpl. Duane Cothren says, “Probably take me a year to do what I can do in a day now.”

Here’s how it works: a police officer has several cameras installed in his or her car. Those cameras are constantly scanning, getting info from license plates. If the police officer comes across a stolen car, the computer beeps. Chief Jeff LeDuff says, “We don’t know that it’s a stolen car. It tells us.”

In the blink of an eye, the computer processes license plates letting police know if the car is stolen. It makes the cop’s job easier, but in the long run, it could help reduce auto insurance rates in the state. Right now, Louisiana has the third highest insurance rates in the country. One of the main reasons is the number of cars that are stolen.

LA Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon says, “Hopeful be able to level off, if not reduce auto insurance costs for drivers in our state.” The car that’s equipped with the license reader in Baton Rouge isn’t marked, so car thieves have no idea they’re being targeted. Lt. John Murnane says, “Chances are, you’re not going to know who we are, we’re going to know who you are.” In mere seconds, the person who stole the car can be pulled over and arrested.

Even when police aren’t out looking for stolen cars, the computer is hard at work, targeting car thieves. Since August, Baton Rouge police have recovered 23 stolen cars and 9 stolen license plates. Baton Rouge Police got the equipment from the Louisiana Auto Theft and Insurance Fraud Prevention Program. They say this high-tech crime fighter is well worth it’s $24,000 price tag.

The license plate reader can also help find missing children when Amber Alerts are issued and even target people who have multiple traffic violations.