ASCENSION PARISH, La. (WAFB) - Let’s say someone is riding around Ascension Parish in a car that’s stolen or was part of a crime. With this new, high-tech camera roaming parish roads, chances are the bad guys won’t get too far. Every time a license plate recognition patrol vehicle passes a car, the license plate reader system dings.
Those dings have sort of turned into background noise for Deputy Matthew Johnson with the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office. He’s only been driving a mobile license plate reader vehicle since Friday, Aug. 16, and the four high tech cameras mounted on the roof have already proven their worth.
“I have gotten stolen vehicles, stolen plates, and found a few missing people,” the deputy said.
There are two lenses inside each of the four cameras on the unit. One lens reads the car and its model, the other zooms in on the plate. Deputy Johnson says the mobile system can read ten plates per second.
Sheriff Bobby Webre says when deputies are driving around town, patrolling through parking lots or crime-ridden areas, the cameras can read each plate they pass within a 360° radius. So if a vehicle is flagged in the nationwide law enforcement database, the National Crime Information Center, as being associated with a stolen plate or car, an Amber Alert, or a wanted person, the driver could be questioned.
“There’s a little siren that goes off,” Deputy Johnson said. “It immediately pops up on my screen less than a couple of seconds of it passing me or me passing it.”
Johnson says the system also tells deputies the criminal history of the potential offender, just so law enforcement agents know the situation they’re getting into.
Sheriff Webre says technology is advancing at a rapid rate, so law enforcement officers have to take advantage to keep up with criminals.
Deputy Johnson says they’re not targeting drivers, but that they’re only looking for people or cars mentioned in the database.
“It’s an extra tool that we can utilize. It’s not used for writing traffic citations. It’s to keep the public safe or wanted people or stolen vehicles," he said.
APSO already has 12 stationary readers around the parish, with two of these mobile units patrolling so deputies can stay proactive.
Since July of 2018, the sheriff’s office says the stationary readers have proven helpful with three hit and run suspect vehicles located, around $240,000 in property recovered, and 30 wanted persons found.