State police testing device that IDs suspect vehicles
By Joe Grata
Matches flashed instantly
onto screens in patrol cars
State police on the Pennsylvania Turnpike
are experimenting with a high-tech device that
reads license plates and provides instant
Like 1:26 p.m. Monday, when Trooper
Donald Hardeman pulled over a Honda Accord
racing down the toll road at 91 mph in Chester
As soon as Trooper Hardeman pulled
behind the car, an infrared TV camera detected
the vehicle as stolen and posted the information
on a screen on the console. He called
backup to help remove the three occupants,
who were arrested and also charged with a
series of burglaries in the Harrisburg region.
Police also confiscated a loaded handgun.
The Motorola Automatic License Plate
Reader “gave us a tactical advantage,” said Lt.
Adam Kisthardt, part of the technology bureau
staff at Pennsylvania State Police headquarters
Motorola, the manufacturer, chose
Pennsylvania State Police over other departments
nationwide to experiment with the new
At no expense to state police, it has
installed cameras and support equipment on
seven turnpike patrol cars that operate out of
Bowmansville Barracks east of Harrisburg.
The program on the turnpike will continue
for 45 days.
“The cameras can read in snow, rain, in
bright sunshine or total darkness,” Lt.
Kisthardt said. “They read the reflective lettering
and numbers on plates and, in a split
second, compare the image to information in
the CLEAN network,” the statewide database
where law enforcement agencies post stolen
vehicles, fugitives, all points bulletins and
“The license plate list carries only criminal
information, so 99.9 of the vehicles not on
the ‘hot list’ and with no correlation to crime
are dumped immediately” by the Automatic
License Plate Reader, said Lt. Krishardt.
For a match that is made instantaneously,
a picture of the wanted vehicle is posted on
the screen mounted inside the police car to
indicate a “hit.”
“The beauty of the system is this: As a
trooper drives down the road or sits along the
road, the equipment reads every license plate
he encounters and runs it through the system,”
Lt. Krishardt said.
The units are expected to cost about
$12,000 if the state police become interested
and able to afford them as another crime-fighting
“If they’re deemed a benefit, we’ll seek
support in obtaining it,” the lieutenant said.