Out on the Town
License-plate recognition system increases productivity for Brussels police
- By Megan Weadock
- Jan 01, 2009
Car thieves would be well-advised to steer clear of
Brussels, Belgium, where a new license-plate
recognition system is helping to detect stolen
vehicles—with remarkable results.
Although Brussels has experienced an overall
decrease in vehicle theft in recent years, the crime
remains a substantial problem. In fact, the city’s Antiaggression
Brigade has begun finding more cars in its
territory that were stolen outside its borders. That’s why
the brigade, part of the Brussels Police Department,
recently implemented AutoVu, an IP license plate recognition
system from Genetec.
From Manual to Automatic
The entire installation consists of six cameras that can be
interchangeably mounted on 10 police vehicles and have
been pre-cabled and pre-configured for ease of portability
and maximization of usage.
Prior to the AutoVu LPR solution, officers from the
Anti-aggression Brigade would memorize license plate
numbers of wanted vehicles or compare license plates of
suspicious vehicles to printed lists or a database. This
manual process of tracking stolen vehicles imposed
many limitations on officers trying to cover a lot of
ground and vehicles.
Zenitel, a system integrator in Belgium, proposed the
LPR solution to the Brussels Police Department.
“Before, the brigade had to rely on its agents to recognize
wanted vehicles while patrolling the streets of
Brussels,” said Manon Blouin, product manager for
AutoVu at Genetec. “It was a very time-consuming
process. Through various tests conducted during the day
and night, the brigade recognized the excellent performance
of our solution and its benefits to their operations.”
An All-in-one Answer
The AutoVu solution is made up of an intelligent camera
called the AutoVu Sharp and the Patroller and Back
Office software applications. The AutoVu Sharp, an IPbased
device, delivers advanced digital video processing,
superior plate-reading performance and industrialgrade
durability. Available for both fixed and mobile
installations, the AutoVu Sharp functions over an IP network
and provides the advantages of having sophisticated
analytics residing on the edge. Patroller consists of
simplified in-vehicle software that reports license plate
reads and hits from hotlists, which are imported from the
base station. Back Office is the system’s reporting, datamining
and live monitoring application.
Each AutoVu Sharp camera reads license plates without
external triggering and reports the plates in the form
of an image of the vehicle, the plate information and a
cutout of the infrared image used to extract the plate.
AutoVu Patroller then matches this received information
from each Sharp camera on the mobile unit to a series of
hotlists that may contain information from around the
world on stolen vehicles, wanted felons, scofflaw or
uninsured vehicles. Once the shift is over, the operator
will return to the facilities and offload all the reads,
including hits, to Back Office.
AutoVu’s Sharp creates an all-in-one solution for
capturing license plates and processing the information
through the edge LPR device. The progressive scan camera
takes the IR image of the vehicle, and the edge LPR
engine processes the images received from the camera in
full high resolution and in real time to extract the license
plate. This architecture is designed to allow for the most
reliable solution in comparison to centralized processing
units of multiple cameras. Processing on the edge also
simplifies cabling as there is only the need for power-in,
Brussels is the first region in Belgium to test the solution.
According to the Anti-aggression Brigade chief, the
unit recovered nine stolen vehicles in the first three
weeks of using AutoVu. The accuracy of the system has
impressed the officers.
More than this, the brigade has enjoyed AutoVu’s
easy-to-use and touch-enabled interface, which automatically
alerts officers of stolen vehicles as the plate is
scanned by the LPR camera.
“The benefits are multiple,” Blouin said. “We were
told by several police officers that the Sharp is like an
extra agent in the car. It enables the patrolling officers to
focus on other tasks rather than paying attention to licence
plates. In certain cases, they can remove one patrolling
officer to be reassigned on another mission. So there is a
great productivity gain for the entire brigade.
“The Sharp, as a ‘virtual’ officer, also does its job
very well. Its ‘eyes’ can read a greater number of plates
at a high-accuracy rate and match its readings to very
large vehicles of designated databases. This makes this
task much more efficient and brings enhanced results in
detecting wanted vehicles.”
Currently, the Anti-aggression Brigade is solely using
AutoVu to automate the detection of stolen vehicles, and
officers disregard licence plate information outside of
this objective. But with the success of the solution, the
brigade intends to purchase another four units and is
looking to expand the application to include the detection
of vehicles without car insurance.
This article originally appeared in the January 2009 issue of Security Today.