The ELSAG License Plate Reader was deployed by the SMPD as an operational test.
On Friday afternoon, May 3, I happened upon a SMPD operation on US1, southbound by 62 Avenue. It was about 5:30p, and I noticed a Miami Beach Police squad car in the center lane of US1, an unusual place to find it! Traffic cones behind the vehicle steered cars to the lanes on either side. Inside the MBPD car were a Miami Beach officer and SMPD Training Officer Al Alvarez, monitoring data outputs from a license plate reader (LPR) and transmitting violations to other officers farther down the highway. (The ability to test this system and have a MBPD vehicle and experienced officer work the detail is part of South Miami’s mutual aid agreement with other area agencies.)
The technology uses video imaging to run a check of the tag and registered owner, looking for not only traffic violators, but also stolen vehicles and tags, suspended licenses and warrants for arrest. A frequently used law enforcement tactic, LPRs are employed by agencies across the country to identify persons or vehicles whose license plates are connected to a crime or infraction. Over Memorial Day weekend, the MBPD deployed these units on the causeways out to the beach to make such determinations.
That Friday afternoon in South Miami, the LPR was tested between 4:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., during which time, 4,352 tags were read, resulting in the following: 14 criminal arrest citations (where the recipient promises to appear in court on a specified date); 15 moving/non-moving citations; 2 physical arrests; 2 seized tags, and 1 towed vehicle.
On the scene was South Miami Police Chief Orlando Martinez. The chief indicated that “the SMPD is considering acquiring two mobile units and three fixed units for the next fiscal year, using Federal Drug Forfeiture Funds.” The cost is estimated at $100K. According to the chief, the two mobile LPRs would be permanently placed in two uniform patrol cars to be used throughout the city by the traffic unit and/or the patrol division. In this setup, additional police units would be needed to conduct an LPR operation (one unit to monitor and the others to stop the vehicle in question). The three permanent units would be placed in strategic locations around the city, like the downtown area and US1, and would be able to transmit information captured directly to the on-board computers of the police units assigned in the area.
As the chief noted, “we are all aware South Miami is logistically located at the center of major traffic arteries in South Dade like Bird Road, Miller Road, Sunset Drive and US1. There are millions of vehicles annually that visit or pass through our city, and we believe the LPR will deter/identify traffic violators as well as criminal offenders going through and/or committing criminal acts in our jurisdiction.”