Law enforcement agencies nationwide have historically faced and continue to face harsh criticism for "not doing enough" to protect the communities they serve from criminal activity ranging in severity from shoplifting to violent crimes. This is true despite the fact that you as officers commit yourselves to bringing security to these communities, often spending long days and even longer nights investigating crimes, piecing together evidence, and pursuing the criminals. However, the reality is that some low-priority crimes go unsolved as more critical issues occur and your agency shifts its gears and dedicates resources to finding more violent or more active perpetrators. The public perceives this as a failure on the part of the officers and sometimes the agencies. But the public rarely considers the many factors that can hamper a criminal investigation. These factors include the time lag between the crime occurring and the victim reporting it to the authorities, the details of the report, and the limits of the evidence garnered on scene and via surveillance.
Rekor Systems Inc., a leading provider of public safety and vehicle recognition systems, works with law enforcement partners, providing its automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) software as well as exclusive access to its Public Safety Network shared resource database to help police solve such crimes.
There are multiple factors that can hinder an officer's ability to successfully carry out his or her duties, and the first critical issue is response time. Given the time it takes for an officer to respond to a call, they are reactively approaching a situation.
Upon arriving at a scene officers use surrounding resources to attempt to piece together what happened and who could be responsible. Local surveillance cameras can play an integral role in solving a case; however, the video feed's quality can appear granular or unclear, which can create some difficulty in identifying a potential suspect.
License plate recognition systems are another tool that agencies use to identify perpetrators. Before ALPR software, like Rekor's, there were traditional license plate readers (LPR). These machines were big, bulky, and expensive with a monthly cost of tens of thousands of dollars. Due to their bulky design and high price tag, departments could only afford to have a couple of these machines, leaving many roads and key areas such as shopping centers without surveillance.
A traditional LPR offers 70% to 80% accuracy. That 20% to 30% margin of error is critically important because an inaccurate read can lead an investigation in the wrong direction or even in multiple wrong directions.
Another drawback to traditional LPR is that a human being has to search through the footage. Even if the person performing this task is not a sworn officer, it is a costly undertaking. It also takes the officer's time away from other investigative tasks when the agency is already up against the clock.
Aside from the manual labor aspect, traditional LPRs lack real-time updates. Making sure the license plate data is up to date is critical to success and to closing cases. In critical situations, a traditional LPR machine can only identify a vehicle of interest after law enforcement identifies the vehicle and puts out a notice to other departments, leaving a high chance of the vehicle being long gone. The real-time alerts provided by LPR are a vital tool in delivering quicker response times and, in turn, leading to more suspects being apprehended much faster than what a traditional LPR can provide.
Law enforcement response times can be improved by license plate recognition and especially by automated license plate recognition (ALPR) systems.
Rekor's ALPR software is powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning, and it provides a compact, cost-effective alternative solution that helps law enforcement officers maximize their efficiency and solve more cases.
A unique capability of Rekor's ALPR is the ability to install our software into any existing traffic, security, or law enforcement security camera network to search for license plate numbers on hotlists as well as plates associated with Amber Alerts and plates of registered sex offender motor vehicles.
Rekor's Watchman software is sold through a subscription, reducing the initial capital expense associated with many ALPR systems. If your community already has the cameras, the cost of using Rekor software is $50 per month per software license.
Rekor offers its customers a variety of data on vehicle identification features, including make, model, and color with 99% accuracy. Other features include real-time alerts, and the ability to whitelist and blacklist vehicles.
The company also plans to provide a Public Safety Network where state or local law enforcement agency customers can access a real-time data network at no extra cost. The Public Safety Network is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2020, and it will aggregate vehicle data from customers in more than 30 states, providing access to thousands of ALPR cameras capturing approximately 150 million plate reads per month.
This network alone will enhance the ability for law enforcement to act more quickly when an alert identifies a wanted vehicle. Using the Network officers will be able to apprehend the suspect before they have the chance to flee. In turn, if officers arrive at a crime scene with no suspect, they can review the surveillance footage and flag any suspicious vehicle that was on location at the time of the incident.
The Westchester County (NY) Police Department is a Rekor client. Recently, the department's Real Time Crime Center (RTCC) received an unclear video of an assault on a parking enforcement officer. The detective in charge of the investigation was able to use Rekor to identify the type of vehicle, a blue Jeep, the suspect was driving. Within 45 minutes of the crime, the suspect was apprehended.
With the power of Rekor's ALPR software recognizing the vehicle, the detective was able to create a hotlist of blue Jeeps that were in the area within the given time frame. Before Rekor, the detective would have had limited insight into the type of vehicle or the color, heightening the chance of the suspect getting away.
Rekor has tested its Rekor Public Safety Network with the RTCC. With 84 cameras deployed, the RTCC can capture 25 million reads per month, resulting in hundreds of hotlist hits per month. The RTCC detectives can gather information from committed crimes and send it out to their patrol officers, allowing this tool to maximize efficiency.
Charles Degliomini is executive vice president of Rekor Systems Inc.