Automatic License Plate Recognition

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Automatic license plate recognition software running on car-mounted Panasonic Toughbook

Today’s police technology is aimed at making an officer’s job easier, safer and more cost-effective. One such technology, Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR), has advanced in the past few years. With the ability to identify license plates and match them to stolen vehicles or drivers with outstanding warrants, officers have a valuable tool in crime fighting. Basically, ALPR brings together specialized cameras, lighting, optical character recognition (OCR) and electronic databases to identify license plates, read the characters from them and compare them against a list of license plates of interest. The cameras, mounted on a patrol vehicle’s bumper, bar light or another fixed point, scan vehicles that come within their view. With ALPR, the task has been automated and augmented so the officer does not have to look out for wanted plates or vehicles at all. The ALPR system automatically scans every plate within its view and compares it against an internal hot sheet of thousands of plate numbers, immediately notifying the officer when a hit occurs. This technology offers significant time and cost savings for agencies. Now that the technology is mature and its value recognized, ALPR vendors have added multiple software features that take ALPR well into the future. For example, most vendors have or are adding wireless synchronization solutions. A wireless link can work over the existing wireless data network, but the more common medium is a local Wi-Fi network. Adding GPS information to the recordings of plate scans doesn’t add a lot to the file size, but it makes the data gathered by a mobile ALPR unit far more valuable. Now is the time to look into acquiring an ALPR system if your agency doesn’t have one.

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