In the constant effort to keep our streets safe, the Sheriff’s Office has a new tool. For the past month, deputies have been driving a specially equipped patrol car which can read license plates, and which gives an alert when a car has been reported stolen, or the owner of the car has a suspended license.
The car looks just like a normal patrol vehicle – citizens won’t know the difference when they see it unless they notice the unobtrusive black boxes mounted beside the light bar on top. Inside it is equipped with four digital tag readers which feed information to a laptop computer in the car. The readers can read tags in front of the patrol vehicle, and to each side of it. The computer automatically checks the tags through a database which is updated every half hour to reflect up to date information on stolen cars and suspended licenses.
Once alerted, the deputy checks the actual car’s tag with the one showing on the screen to make sure the reading is correct. If it is, he can pull the vehicle over and ticket the driver if necessary.
“We have been operating this car 24 hours a day in various areas of the county and it has been very successful,” said Colonel Rick Ramsay. “It checks an average of 1200 – 1500 tags per shift, depending on time of day and traffic. We are still collecting data on it, but as an example, we worked in the city of Key West with KWPD for a week. In one night, we got 74 hits on tags and wrote 25 tickets.”
“This is one more tool in our arsenal,” Sheriff Bob Peryam said. “If someone’s license is suspended, it is for a reason. Usually, it is because of dangerous driving habits. We don’t dangerous people driving on our roadways, endangering our law abiding citizens,” he said. “And if a car is stolen, we definitely want to catch the person driving the stolen vehicle and return the it to its owner.”
40 deputies assigned to various areas of the county went through a four hour training session to learn how to operate the equipment. Most of the time, the vehicle is operated by two patrol officers; one driving and one working with the tag reader.