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Driving Through Skokie? Be Sure Your Plates Are Up to Date

Skokie Police are getting ready to debut a new system that targets motorists who have expired license plate stickers.

The Skokie Police Department recently purchased a new device that should curb motorists who drive 'under the radar' with expired licenses.

The department recently installed a new automated license plate recognition software (ALPR) that can scan approximately 3,000 license plates an hour.

What does that mean?

If a driver has an expired license plate sticker and is in the vicinity of a squad car chances are the officer will be notified without doing anything.

The technology uses several cameras that are mounted on a squad car. Those cameras will be constantly running license plates to check for people driving on a suspended or revoked license. They can also notify an officer if a driver has an expired plate sticker, has a warrant out for their arrest and even if the driver is a registered sex offender, police said. The device can operate whether the officer's vehicle is in motion or if it's parked.  

Prior to the ALPR, officers manually entered plate numbers through their vehicle computer. At most, officers could run about 10 to 15 plates an hour, said Deputy Chief Michael Pechter.

"The [ALPR] will be running plates through the system and uploading them to an officer's squad car," Pechter said. "If the device flags a vehicle, a pop-up will appear on the screen and auto alert the officer who will then initiate a traffic stop."

The department received 100 percent funding through the Justice Assistance Stimulus Grant Fund. Pechter said each device cost "in the ballpark of $24,000." It is unclear how many police vehicles have the ALPR at this time. However, Pechter did say the ALPR is already being used in Skokie.

Pechter said the problem with drivers on a suspended or revoked license is that they typically follow all traffic laws to the "T," making it difficult for officers to initiate a traffic stop.

"This enables you to stop people that are doing everything right," Pechter said. 

How effective is the ALPR?

In Sarasota, Fla., deputies allowed a reporter to ride along as they deployed the ALPR. According to the Herald-Tribune, "34 drivers were pulled over by Sarasota sheriff's deputies during a 90-minute period around 9 a.m."

Of those pulled over, 21 resulted in a traffic citation and six drivers received criminal summons, according to the Herald-Tribune. All in all, the camera scanned 1,758 license plates during a 90-minute period.

How does it work?

Officers would download a "fresh hot list" from an Illinois database to their vehicle computer before their shift. That list would contain the most up to date information on all registered drivers with a suspended, revoked license. It also contains data for drivers with expired plate stickers, registered sex offenders or those that have a warrant out for their arrest.

While the officer is on patrol, the ALPR would automatically scan nearby plates. If a vehicle is flagged, an auto alert then pops up in the squad car's computer, Pechter said.

For example, if a sex offender is driving a vehicle that is registered to him, and he is parked in a school parking lot, a squad car equipped with ALPR would automatically notify the officer.

It can also work both ways, however. 

If you're driving a car that's registered to someone that has a warrant out for their arrest, you're most likely going to get pulled over if the ALPR is in your vicinity, for example. 

License plates are captured and run through both state and federal databases, Pechter said.  

"At crime scenes, police vehicles equipped with this system are able to quickly identify all nearby vehicles for potential follow-up investigations," Pechter added. 

millie July 17, 2012 at 12:33 PM
I think Evanston already purchased something like this. Or at least the city council was thinking about it
Jennifer Fisher (Editor) July 17, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Thanks for the tip, James! We'll look into it.
Jim Osburn July 17, 2012 at 08:49 PM
It just struck me that this equipment may impair traffic safety! "Pechter said the problem with drivers on a suspended or revoked license is that they typically follow all traffic laws to the "T," making it difficult for officers to initiate a traffic stop." therefore the police will be removing the most obidient, observant drivers on the road leaving more room for the crazies to drive and endanger the public! Nice going Big Brother.

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