Cops chase high-tech scan cars

Cops chase high-tech scan cars

22 December 2011

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Australia — WA Police want to buy 48 futuristic patrol cars which can scan six million numberplates a week to catch car thieves, unlicensed drivers, arsonists and even murderers.

Supt Lance Martin said police had asked the State Government to buy the cars, which were laden with technology including automatic numberplate recognition systems to scan an average 1200 plates an hour.

The system would immediately alert officers in the car if a vehicle was unregistered or stolen or if its owner was unlicensed or was wanted for outstanding warrants.

Supt Martin said police believed the cars could also be pivotal in catching bushfire arsonists and others who commit serious crimes.

They proposed to put up to 20 of the cars into streets around such crime scenes to log all numberplates in the area.

After a serious bushfire, the numberplate system could alert officers if a car in the area belonged to a known arsonist.

“You could then pull that car over and question that person about what they were doing in the area and what they knew about the bushfire,” Supt Martin said.

“By putting these cars in the area where a crime has occurred, it will log the exact time and location of every car it scans and police can scour that information.”

The cars, one of which police have tested since March, could be on the road in the second half of next year if funding was approved. Each would spend about 100 hours on the road a week, scanning about 120,000 plates in that time.

Supt Martin said the cars also had internal and external cameras to film to the front, rear and inside as video evidence.

To access the onboard computer systems, officers must have their fingerprints scanned on a dashboard device.

The time and locations database of all cars scanned could only be accessed with the authority of a senior officer, reducing the risk of privacy violations. The vehicles also have high-visibility markings.

Supt Martin said each car would cost $70,000 to kit out with the technology and custom fittings.

Police executive director Greg Italiano said 20 of the cars would be used by Perth’s traffic enforcement group, with two for each of WA’s 14 police districts.
Police Minister Rob Johnson said the Government would consider the request to fund the purchase of the cars.

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