LAURENS, S.C. (WSPA) – The Laurens Police Department has a new way to monitor the roads. Stationary license plate readers have been installed to help keep the community safe.
Police Chief Keith Grounsell said the readers have already led to three arrests in three days. He said he noticed the department was very behind in technology and this is a way to multiply their police force.
The readers sit along many of the city’s main, public roads.
“Day 1 we started getting hits for stolen vehicles and it was just very eye-opening for us, and officers that have never worked with license plate readers in the past,” said Grounsell.
Police are already seeing results with the new readers.
“In three days, three arrests and three stolen vehicles. It’s that simple. Guns in the car, drugs in the car, there’s other crimes that are normally afoot when you’re dealing with a person who has a stolen vehicle,” he said.
These license plate readers are always running tags.
“We do not get an alert, unless it’s a hit for a stolen vehicle, a wanted suspect, something like that,” said Grounsell.
If they get an alert Grounsell, said police have to do some research.
“Just a hit alone is not probable cause to make a stop, we have to confirm that it’s the correct license plate, there was no error, or anything like that and then we make a stop after that,” he said.
Any plates that do not trigger an alert go into a database and disappear after 30 days.
“People think that we are taking video, audio recording. It just merely captures a photo of the back of the car, the license plate and runs it,” said Grounsell.
The chief said having license plates saved in the database can help with crimes they don’t know about yet.
“When one of your loved ones goes missing and you have a vehicle license plate, we’re automatically running and scanning,” he said. “The database, the system that we have, is shared with all law enforcement.”
Officers receive text alerts and maps if a license plate is pinged.
“It’s a complete game changer. It’s said to reduce crime anywhere from 60 to 70% in some jurisdictions. If you can reduce crime 10-20% that’s substantial,” said Grounsell.
These readers cannot tell your speed and they are not used for writing tickets or any moving violations.
Driving is a privilege in the state, said Grounsell, and vehicles’ license plates and anyone’s drivers license belong to the state. He said when you’re on a public roadway, there is no expectation of privacy where they cannot take a still image of a plate.
According to Grounsell, 8 out of 25 readers have been installed. They hope to have the rest installed within the month.
With these readers, Grounsell believes police will probably see more arrests, but that doesn’t mean there is more crime. He said the police department is being more assertive and is starting to have better technology.