Tuesday, May 19, 2009

ALPR coming soon

We are in the process of acquiring a couple automated license plate recognition (ALPR) systems. Basically, ALPR systems use cameras and optical character recognition to read license plates by the thousands, and look for matches in a computer database of wanted vehicles. There are a growing number of these systems in use in police departments, and the technology is proven. It will be nice addition to our capabilities, and I expect (like other agencies) we will have some early and ongoing successes in recovering stolen cars, wanted fugitives, and so forth.

Bids were solicited earlier this year, and we are in the process of evaluating the responses. We have meetings set up this week with the vendors, and should be selecting the system we prefer this month. Acquisition, installation, and training will take place over the summer. One of the most important steps—developing the “hot list” database that plates will be checked against—will also be a work in progress. I expect we’ll be fully operational this fall.


Anonymous said...

Methane detectors in every elevator. The fart police, at a theater neear you.

Anonymous said...

hmph...did UNL put their two cents in on the system or do they already have one? I would think that they would also benefit the the same technology. Especially with all of their parking lots.

Steve said...


Another car thief heard from?

This sounds like a great tool to me.

Anonymous said...

Boy I can see how that camera sound could get really annoying after awhile. Also, I hope the officers can keep enough attention on the road with all this info coming in over the computer.

I don't know how I feel about this it is kind of big brothery but I sure can see where finding stolen cars etc would be much easier with another pair of "eyes" in the car.

Kind of spooky about being able to pull up every time the plate was scene with GPS stamps. My life would certainly be revealed as pathetic but I am sure other lives would be more interesting.

Can you tell I think there is both good and potential bad here. It will be interesting to see what you all think after you have heard the speal from the vendors and actually tried it out.

Dave said...

I'm not sure I like this idea. It just makes me think that I am losing more of my freedoms as an American citizen.

If you folks think I am full of bull, realize that every plate scanned, is record with the time and location where spotted. Thats an intrusion of my personal space.

Seems like good old fashioned police work is going by the wayside in favor of new technology and toys. Just means people are going to think less and depend on technology more.

Nope, I do not like this.

Anonymous said...

I think it is great that stolen cars can be identified with this technology.

An even more serious problem in my opinion is that of stolen firearms. A member of the general public has almost no way of knowing if a firearm they buy has been stolen. Citizens do not have access to the NCIS database of stolen weapons.

In the past I have purchased firearms from private entities and because I have personal connections with a couple friends in law enforcement I was able to have them checked out. In doing this a few rules were broken but knowing that a weapon has not been stolen is worthwhile.

I would like to see a National database of stolen weapons that is available to the public. It would be nice to know that old antique Colt six shooter you bought from a newspaper ad was not stolen.

Over the years I have written our Senators and Congressmen but it hasn't achieved results. Maybe someone with your reputation could get the ball rolling.

Gun Nut

Gun Nut

Anonymous said...

Potential revenue stream for the city?

Anonymous said...

Revenue for the city? I think not. This tool may help in solving crime and finding stolen vehicles. There's the cost of impounding the vehicle, processing it by a crime tech and the man hours. This is not a money maker for the city. I think the PD wants to do more than just find vehicles wanted for unpaid parking tickets. If you can't pay your parking tickets, you probably won't be able to pay for the tow and the city would foot the bill. I just don't understand all the big brother fear mongers though.

Anonymous said...

Revenue stream? No, fines will go the same place they do already, the cash-bloated public schools. They can use it to buy more laptops, since they can't seem to secure the ones they have now.

While I absolutely despise the idea of automated traffic enforcement cameras - because they are all about revenue enhancement with slimy civil "fees" - I really like ALPR. Unlike a speed/red light camera, ALPR has an officer right there with the unit, able to radio in for a confirmation every time the ALPR gets a hit, the human backup. They can cruise not just streets, but alleys and parking lots, looking for expired tags, invalid registrations, no plates, and perhaps even no current insurance, in addition to stolen cars/plates.

The ALPR-operating officer can cite/tow/arrest just as they do now, and the citations will be normal citations, not mailed notices of civil "fees". You'll still be able to face your accuser in open court if needed, just like now.

Anonymous said...

George Orwell was a prophet...

Am I the only one that thinks the cons out-weigh the pros on this one? Sure we can recover more stolen vehicles, but at the cost of our freedoms and privacy.

Who gets to determine how the data collected is used? Does it store the plates and locations of ALL vehicles it scans? Somebody could easily use this to analyze my travel patterns and predict where I'll be at any given time.

This system may seem like an innocent and well-intentioned tool to aid police, but without checks and balances, it has enormous potential to be abused.

The citizens of this city should not tolerate this level of privacy intrusion...

Anonymous said...

It makes me happy to read articles like this. I am glad you guys are keeping up with the joneses so to speak on the latest technology. Today's Police Officer is not only street wise, but computer savy as well.

Anonymous said...

could this system work when people call in suspected DUI's. Is the Hotlist live in that way? IE how often does the list refresh?

Anonymous said...

You have got to be kidding me. All this talk about privacy intrusion - because they are using a camera to read a license plate that is in plain view?

The only difference between this and what happens now - is the new system will be more efficient. Nothing is keeping officers from writing down you license plate, time, date, location now. They just don't do it (or do they???)

Your privacy is invaded only if officers are using the tool to allow them to do something they otherwise couldn't (i.e. high powered listening device, phone tap, read unopened mail etc) Or that a normal citizen couldn't do.

There is nothing but time preventing officers from collecting this information now.

Its available, in public view. This tool just makes it more efficient. But as a private citizen, I could just as easily write down your license information, times, dates, number of passengers etc. Would I be invading your privacy?

Wait until we have another Norfolk bank robbery massacre, or Havelock serial rapist, or child abduction and the LPD can match vehicle traffic activity from the previous 3 days (or weeks or months) and use it to identify suspects.

Then tell me again how this is such an intrusion.

Anonymous said...

Will it scan the driver thru his/her clothes like TSA is doing? Now THAT could get interesting!

Tom said...

This seems to be an invasion of privacy. With this system the license plates can be read and then the officer has access to all of that drivers confidential information. (Name, Age, Physical Description, Driving Record, etc..) I believe that this is currently being used as trials in Florida where there has been disputes on its usage and privacy.

"[This technology] subjects every citizen and visitor to a state police check without probable cause or even any basis for suspicion." -- Howard Simon, Executive Director, Florida Civil Liberties Union, quoted by the Associated Press, 30 April 2004.

I was wondering how much this is going to cost the taxpayers? Does Lincoln really have a great need for this technology in the first place?

Can we afford it, or are we gonna cut more programs to implement this?


Is this just something new that Casady is doing for personal benifit so he can possibly receive more personal recognition as a tech savvy police chief?

I think that this should really be openly discussed with the public and the pros and cons weighed.

I want to make sure that the people of Lincoln know exactly what this system is and what it does, not the police Chiefs biased article.

Remember this quote from Benjamin Franklin?

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Within the U.S., two cities are using the technology in a device called "Bootfinder" to identify and tow vehicles with unpaid parking tickets or even overdue library books. One woman's car in Connecticut was towed out of her driveway because she had $85 in unpaid parking tickets. Legislation is pending in Texas to allow the use of RFID to scan and ticket passing motorists who have expired automobile insurance.

Originally intended to detect stolen vehicles and cloned cars, ANPR is increasingly being used in the UK to issue tickets. For instance, drivers who have expired insurance face a £200 fine or if they haven't paid their car tax, they face a £60 fine. In 2004, ANPR teams stopped 180,543 vehicles and issued 51,000 tickets for offenses including failure to wear a seatbelt, use of a mobile phone while driving, and various insurance and road tax infractions.

Anonymous said...

LOL @ "Orwell was a Prophet." Since when did you think that while driving down the street you were in private? And who says that you still won't be free to drive down the street? Here's an idea, don't drive a stolen/wanted vehicle and you shouldn't have any problems with the new system!
Good job Chief!

Anonymous said...


If Casady's trying to make himself look "tech savy" he's a decade too late. There is nothing new about this technology. Its been in use worldwide for quite some time. I don't see the sense in keeping the police from using it when toll booths and carpool lanes have been doing it for years. As somebody mentioned, its the same thing police do manually by writing down information or radio-ing in plate numbers for records checks now.

Anonymous said...

It is interesting to me that people are so concerned about privacy and individual rights when everyone is so quick to jump on the gov't hand out wagon. Stimulus funds, farm subsidies, grants, social security, disability, the want of free health care, the redistibution of wealth, the list goes on and on.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a "rolling 70", but a whole lot quicker. I'm sick of rockheads that buy 6 months of insurance, renew their tags, but don't get the next 6 months worth of insurance - then run into someone that follows the law. I'm sick of morons that buy used cars, then don't insure or register them. I'm sick of fools that DUS. I'm sick of fictitious plates/tags. This won't eliminate that, but it'll put a large dent in it.

ALPR is the reason that I'm dead-set against going to one license plate. Drive through just about any apt complex in California, and you'll see a surprising proportion of POVs backed in to their stalls, so that their only plate (on the rear) can't be seen. It's a lock that a lot of those cars are stolen, have invalid reg, fake plates/tags, are owned by someone with warrants out, don't have insurance, etc etc etc.

These idiots cause your taxes to go up to recover the revenue lost to their illegal non-compliance. I want them all busted, fined, lodged, whatever it takes to get them off the road. However, I'm still against automated traffic enforcement cameras, and always will be. Anyone that can't see the difference between those and ALPR needs to plunger the muck out of where their cerebellum should be.

Anonymous said...


You should learn how to make a logical argument because your comment makes no sense.

Anonymous said...

The blog is getting mean spirited. Ten minutes in the corner for all of you. And what does anon 6:11 AM mean by a fart police? Also it is near not neear, so you get -2 for spelling.
Is it a citation for disturbing the peace by passing in public? PEW

Anonymous said...

Maybe the Chief should take a step back realize that maybe people don't want this and that is why it is becoming more hostile. Maybe the Chief should incorporate more public opinion, and ideas into his decisions instead of just doing it. Maybe then everyone would have something nice to say.

Anonymous said...

I guess I have no problem with scanning plates and running them through a data base. I guess I am interested in what information will be stored, how long, and what uses will be made of it.

If you only store plates that come up with a violation that is one thing - if you store every plate you scan... first of all what a ton of storage space will be needed. I can see wanting to check out where a certain car has been if subsequently it was involved in a crime but honestly - how much information must be stored on the off chance you will find out that the same car was in a certain place each morning.

I am just wondering out loud more than announcing some kind of decision.

ARRRRG!!!! said...

I hope they don't find my license plates!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see the LPD taking this great step forward. Many people in bigger cities are concerned that the police can't truly keep up with organized crime, but this is a step ahead for Lincoln.

Anonymous said...


For your information, if a stolen vehicle is recovered, it is the street officer that process's that said vehicle. They take the photos, dust for prints, and may even take DNA samples from several areas with in and outside the vehilce. I think one watches to much t.v. to think the crime scene techs do it all. The uniform LPD does the MAJORITY of the work on any case he or she is given, not unless it's a major crime (murder, sexual assaults, ect).

Anonymous said...

If this technology was used ONLY in tracking felonies like stolen cars, warrants for felons cars etc the Public would be a lot less hesitant to see it adopted.

The idea that it will be used for minor things like parking violators and petty nit picking is what turns folks off I think.

Gun Nut

Anonymous said...

LPD won't have this technology hooked up for several years. The MDT repairs take forever and they got brand new cruisers at the garage that have been sitting there since who knows when waiting for electronics to be installed. Hellooooooo it's almost freaking June.

Anonymous said...

Thought it was interesting there were no remarks from you on what seems to be a hot topic with some people. This is great and wonder who will be trained to use these. Are they permanent mounts or can they be switched from cruiser to cruiser? Can't wait for the inservice on these. Not an invasion of privacy, but a way for us to recover stolen autos. Nice post, Arrrrg.

Tom Casady said...


No way I could keep up, and I didn't really see the need. It's pretty clear I'm in favor, or we wouldn't be acquiring ALPR. The spirited discussion here pretty much covers the waterfront, and there's not much to add.

Right now, I'm thinking one patrol car and one PSO vehicle. It's a pretty technical installation, so it's not practical to move them from car to car. The thought of a mobile/fixed application like our speed trailer crossed my mind, though.

Anonymous said...

Do you plan to use a city/county or whole-state hot sheet for the ALPR, or are you thinking about something larger, perhaps one that includes adjoining states, or even a national hot sheet?

Tom Casady said...


Well, we'd sure like to run against all three: national, state, and local. I just don't know enough about the particulars to tell you what's involved in obtaining a "downloadable" hot file from NCIS and NCIC. Our own records will be a snap. 10:40, despite the snide attack, makes a good point: these projects always appear simpler than they turn out to be, and I may be overly optimistic. I think the hardware will be the simple part.

The back-office database that can be loaded into the mobile unit's processor is more challenging. Since we'll need data from other organizations, I can imagine moats that will need to be crossed, and walls that will have to be scaled. We won't be alone, though, Omaha and NSP are both in the process, too.

Anonymous said...

Will you be able to use the DMV's insurance DB to have the ALPR flag cars with legit plates (and current tags), but that have expired insurance coverage? I'd imagine that very few of those would currently be stopped if the plates and tags look legit and current, unless there was some other reason to pull them over.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of one of these units in a PSO vehicle. Hopefully more will follow!

Seven Mary

Anonymous said...

In the hopes of clarifying Lic Plate recognition, it's not an invasion of privacy, or a safety issue, in the sense of the officer being distracted from the roadway. The information on the plates is readily available to Law Enforcement now. What it does do is allow the officer to be more efficent and focused on the job at hand istead of typing information in to his laptop. Because this is done automatically his head is not down typing.
There is no profiling issues as the cameras are reading a plate that is on a 'hot list' for some infraction or crime. He's not stopping a car because of race, color, creed, etc.

It is a force multiplier allowing the officers to accomplish additional tasks without burdening him with lic plate look-up, unless he gets a hit from a targeted database.

This kind of technology only aids Law Enforcement in their responsibilities. If you haven't done anything wrong, you aren't on any list (database) the officers are searching.

Anonymous said...


I don't read all-caps blog comments. Most people see those caps, and reflexively assume "hysterical nutjob". Put it in sentence case and you'll get more people to take you seriously. Same thing goes for repeated punctuation marks like ??? and !!! One is enough. If you think that what you have to say is worth reading, then it's worth typing properly.

Dave said...

Tom, is this installed already? I saw a Tahoe the other day, that had what at first I thought was a spotlight mounted on the room, then as I looked at it, I realized it looked unlike any spotlight I'd seen before.

While I think there is a slight privacy issue with this, I don't think it's worth the big stink that it seems to be causing, along with the caustic remarks.

I like the idea of mounting it on the speed trailer too. Further, I'd be very stoked if you parked that trailer on Pace Blvd between Woods and Kessler, we have a ton of speeders flying down the street, with little kids in front yards. I hear my neighbor across the street yelling frequently "slow the f*** down!"

Could you look into that maybe?

Tom Casady said...


The Tahoe you saw was one of the vendors, who was in town for their presentation to the committee yesterday.

Anonymous said...

'The Committee' sounds like some top secret group. The shadow government of Lincoln who are now trying to take over by monitoring what everyone is doing with its mobile surveillance units and black helicopters.

Just kidding. Thought it added to the Big Brother theme.

I didn't write it in all caps or over use punctuation so I wouldn't anger anon 11:25am and make him/her reflexively assume I'm a "hysterical nutjob"!!!! (oops)

Anonymous said...


You could mount it on the speed trailer, but state law wisely prohibits using an automated camera to issue citations. I rarely ever agreed with Ernie Chambers about anything, but when he promised to sue (during his citizen testimony in opposition to LB496 if the legislature passed it in this (or any other) session, it pretty much died in committee, and never even made it out to General File.

That being said, however, I fully support vehicle-mounted ALPR with an officer operating the same.

Anonymous said...

Does this system have the ability to upload all the plates that have been run back into NCJIS at the end of the day for delayed hits? (Sorry, I know this is an old topic.)