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Licensed to read plates

by BILL BULEY
Staff Writer | January 9, 2024 1:00 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — The Coeur d’Alene Police Department is hoping to outfit two more patrol cars with license plate reader camera systems. 

“It’s very beneficial to us and has really helped us solve crimes,” Capt. Dave Hagar recently told the City Council.

The council unanimously authorized police to apply for the $35,000 2024 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Grant to acquire two Vigilant mobile Automated License Plate Reader camera systems and equipment for marked patrol units.

Hagar said they have ALPRs on some patrol cars, trailers and at fixed sites.

“This grant is for operations that will enhance regional activities,” he said.

Hagar said that about a month ago a criminal crew from Florida was involved in local thefts. License plate readers can help get the word out so others can be on the lookout for them.

“As soon as we get identifiable information we put those types of license plates into the system,” Hagar said.

He said that since 2020, they have used the ALPRs during two homicide investigations.

In one of those cases, they were able to show the traffic flow and establish time elements of a suspect’s movements.

“We were able to to put them at different locations to solidify the case,” Hagar said.

License plate readers have been used to find missing persons and stolen vehicles and crack down on drug smuggling.

They also provide information that allows police to coordinate with regional partners and fight real-time crime, Hagar said.

This may also aid in quality-of-life problems in the community such as abandoned vehicles and code enforcement violations, according to a city report.

“Basically make our community safer,” Hagar said. 

Coeur d'Alene police have used license plate readers in its vehicles since 2011. Last year, the City Council approved funding for seven license plate reader cameras and related hardware.

Police use ALPRs at several primary intersections around town chosen "due to traffic patterns and crime analytics," according to the report.

Stationary sites allow for a higher number of reads, recognition, and hits in the event of criminal activity, a staff report said.