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License plate readers detect stolen cars

By Paul Burgarino, STAFF WRITER

San Joaquin County has nations third highest per capita auto theft

MANTECA — The next picture taken by city police may be worth more to victims of auto theft than just a thousand words.

The City of Manteca recently purchased an Automated License Plate Recognition System for the police department — a

$25,000 system offered by PIPS technology — in hopes of curtailing a regional problem.

The system, which is the same unit that is being purchased by police in Oakland and Modesto and the California Highway Patrol, allows officers to obtain information instantly on a cars license plate to see if it belongs to a stolen car.

The system, mounted onto a marked patrol car, features three cameras that read the license places of vehicles in three different lanes using infrared and color. The license plate number then is compared to the states database of stolen and wanted vehicles.

If the car is not stolen, no big deal. However, if the license plate number is determined to be stolen, the officer is quickly alerted by the system. An officer will know if it is hot within five seconds.

A lot of times, officers will unknowingly drive by lots of stolen cars and have no idea they are stolen, Police Chief Charles Halford said, adding the equipment can read over 1,000 plates in an eight-hour shift. The machine reads the plate of every car it sees, so it will increase the number of cars we can recover.

The license plates are tracked by their location using Global Positioning System technology.

We are looking forward to using the license trackers. They should be a valuable tool, Halford said.

San Joaquin County has the third highest per capita auto theft in the nation, while Stanislaus County is No. 1. Manteca is located within close proximity to both areas, as well as the Bay Area. According to the citys new online crime data map tracker, there have been 884 auto thefts in the past year in Manteca.

To a degree, we hope this acts as a deterrent to those trying to steal cars in Manteca, Halford said. Maybe theyll go somewhere else, or, better still, theyll stopstealing cars altogether.

Halford was asked to present the license plate tracking system before the City Council, saying it would increase the recovery rate of rolling stolen vehicles.

I think this is just a fantastic device, Councilman John Harris said at the Nov. 6 meeting. It should enhance the polices ability to track down stolen vehicles.

Within the next 10 years, Halford speculated, every police car will be equipped with the license plate tracker capability. The camera will be installed on some cars within the next month.

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