OKC police get cruiser of the future

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Batman may have had the Batmobile but more Oklahoma law enforcement officers may soon be driving a state-of-the-art crime-fighting mobile. It’s being called the future of patrol cars and uses cameras to read up to 3,600 license plates per minute to allow an officer to solve a number of crimes just by driving down the road.

“Seventy-five percent of all crime nationwide is connected to a vehicle,” Jeff Busch said, with Busch & Associates. They sell the Automatic License Plate Reading technology by ELSAG North America.

With three cameras mounted on a police car, it uses software that automatically reads license plates in all directions while the officer keeps his eyes on the road.

It even reads car tags on oncoming cars.

“You can go 140 miles an hour and read the same plates,” Busch said.

The time of location of vehicle tags are recorded, and when those tags are checked through crime databases, this warning often pops up: “Stolen license plate!”

Speaking to officers from several agencies at the Metro Area Traffic Safety Council in Oklahoma City Wednesday, Busch showed how cars can be fitted with thermal imaging cameras, commonly known as night vision.

But it’s the tag-reading technology that has produced profound results.

Busch says it automatically found the license plate of a suspect wanted in connection with the murders of five family members in New York.

“And then of course he confessed to the fact that it wasn’t him and it was the guy that was with him,” Busch said.

In another case, a stolen truck was pulled over carrying kidnapped children.

“That in and of itself, you can’t buy enough cameras. You can’t put enough officers on the street just to be able to stop something like that,” Midwest City Police Cpt. Kenneth Sloan said.

In the words of Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel, “it works fantastic.”

Whetsel has used the technology for about two years on a few patrol units and says the cameras are even becoming a deterrent to criminals.

“If they’re in a stolen car, I’m sure that sends chills up their spine but they know we have the capability now and we’re glad they know that,” he said.

Other agencies told us the cost is a concern.

The system costs between $19,000 and $22,000.

Whetsel says they’ve used drug money seized in the line of duty to pay for it.

An ELSAG North America spokesperson says the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Department and the Ft. Sill Police Department are the only two agencies in Oklahoma that are currently using their technology.

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