ALPR can be integrated into cruiser light bars.

ALPR Technology Hits the Street in California

Since its deployment in August of 2010, the Garden Grove, Calif., Police Department's mobile Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) system already has produced success, including the recovery of three stolen vehicles.

The dual-camera, lightbar-mounted system, provided by Federal Signal Corporation's PIPS Technology, records every plate encountered, and then uses sophisticated algorithms to translate those plate images into text for instantaneous cross-referencing against a "wanted vehicle" database. Officers are immediately alerted via their laptops that the vehicle is of interest. All data is subsequently recorded to a SuperRex™ III processor located in the trunk of the patrol car.

David Young, investigator, Garden Grove Police Department, reports that in its first two months on the job, the new ALPR system has already read upwards of 90,000 license plates, which led to action being taken by officers in numerous instances.

Replacing a portable ALPR unit that the department had been using for several years, Young points out that the new, permanently mounted PIPS Technology system features two cameras integrated right into the lightbar. In making the transition from a portable to permanently mounted ALPR system, Young emphasizes that "ease of use" and adaptability for potential data-sharing arrangements with other law enforcement agencies remained critical concerns with regard to the evaluation process.

"The permanently mounted Slate™ cameras are a significant upgrade over the portable ALPR unit we had previously been using," explains Young, adding that PIPS Technology met all their criteria for operational simplicity and expandability for future data sharing. "This mounting configuration gives us the confidence of knowing that the cameras will stay securely in place during high-speed pursuits and on rough roads," said Young. "Another advantage the permanently mounted system has is that it makes the vehicle appear as if it is equipped with a normal lightbar with conventional alley lights, thereby enhancing the stealth characteristics of the ALPR system."

Garden Grove's system relies on Federal Signal's Back Office System Software (BOSS™) to organize and archive the substantial amount of data that is being continually produced by the ALPR unit. The system spotlights an intuitive interface that allows patrolling officers to query the data against multiple search parameters, such as time, date, full or partial plate, location, user, etc. The system permits users to track vehicle movement by mapping locations associated to a specific license plate.

Garden Grove currently has one patrol vehicle equipped with the Federal Signal PIPS ALPR system, but Young expects that several more vehicles will be similarly equipped within a short time. He adds that these additional ALPR units will most likely feature four cameras ─ two conventional forward-facing cameras angled at 45 degrees, and two cameras facing outward at 90 degrees from the police vehicle to facilitate scanning of parked cars.

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