SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Suffolk Police Department is tasked with finding stolen vehicles, missing persons and suspects. But as the largest city per square mile in Virginia, that presents a challenge.
The police department installed a new tool Wednesday that will put more eyes on the streets.
The Automated License Plate Reading cameras capture the rear license plate and run it through a state and national crime database. If there is a match, police will get a real-time alert of the vehicle’s plate, location and vehicle description.
“If it’s used in a crime, it obviously becomes evidence,” said Suffolk Police Captain Jesse Epperson.
The department saw limited success with this technology before. It was previously mounted on patrol cars.
“Only a few patrol cars could outfit with the technology that had to be installed,” Captain Epperson said. “We saw limited success because we are covering a smaller area with only one or two cars at the time.”
The permanent license plate cameras allow police to cover more of their city.
The cameras won’t be in any neighborhoods, but will be placed around high-traffic areas and city entryways.
“Obviously if we have a very limited amount and expand further, we will be able to get more resources out there and assist our investigation,” Captain Epperson said.
He said the cameras are like toll cameras. They can’t track your speed or even see what you look like.
“We’ve got the license plate. We have no idea who is driving. We don’t keep tabs on the driver,” Captain Epperson said.
If your car’s license plate search doesn’t come up with anything, that photo will be erased within 30 days.
Suffolk Police Department also re-adopted policies about using the Flock Safety camera system.
“We hold our officers accountable to those policies,” he said. “If an officer does a search on the Flock system, it’s a fingerprint there of who did that search and they have to input a reason of why the search was actually done.”
The searches are reviewed monthly to ensure officers aren’t abusing the system.
27 cameras will be fixed on the ground or on the horizontal arms of traffic lights. Epperson said he hopes it will be finished by the end of July. By Monday, 14 of those cameras will be live.