In Annapolis, Maryland, police have begun using the fully-automated Mobile Plate Hunter 900 to scan for stolen cars. Connected to a laptop mounted inside the car, the Mobile Plate Hunter 900 uses cameras mounted on both sides of the trunk lid to scan all passing [or stationary] cars. The images are then sent directly to the laptop where the Mobile Plate Hunter 900’s software identifies the characters, automatically initiating a search through the Motor Vehicle Administration database to check for violations. If the records are clean, the vehicle’s plate number will flash yellow on the screen, issuing a mechanical beep to indicate zero results. If the Plate Hunter’s search indicates a problem however, like expired/suspended registration or an insurance violation, the tag number will flash red and emit a warning siren. If a vehicle is stolen, the Mobile Plate Hunter 900 mimics the sound of machine gun fire, providing slapstick soiled-drawers hilarity for anyone within earshot.
Finding their small department ill-equipped to successfully combat the growing trend of vehicle theft, Annapolis forked over a hefty $30,000 back in June to outfit the department with the plate-reading technology. Explained Annapolis Cpl. Duane Daniels to The Capital, “Logistically, it doesn’t make sense to drive around and call in every car in a parking lot to see if there are violations. Checking a tag the old-fashioned way could take up to five minutes if dispatchers are busy with other calls. It’s a low priority.” Although it’s only been a few months on the job, the Plate Hunter 900 has already proven to be an invaluable asset to the Annapolis PD. Saving them valuable time, officers have begun staking out areas with notoriously high crime rates, just waiting for stolen cars to appear. “You’d be shocked how many roll in,” said 19-year police veteran Cpl. Daniels, “We’ve been taking cars over left and right.”
[Photo Cred: Walter Horylev, Westside News, Inc.]