MPD high tech license plate readers out of service - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

MPD high tech license plate readers out of service

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) - They cost over a million dollars and are supposed to fight crime but it seems the high tech license plate readers on top of Memphis Police cruisers are more fashion than function.

The department's high tech license plate readers aren't working. The cameras are installed on dozens of police patrol cars and they come with a hefty price tag costing more than $20,000 each.

A deputy chief told FOX13 News these cameras have been out of service for months now and they cost the city more than $1 million to install. The city will have to pay to get them fixed.

The Memphis Police Department was eager to show off its newest crime fighting tool four years ago. The department installed license plate readers (LPR) on about 70 patrol cars. The cutting edge cameras can scan three lanes of traffic and read the plate on a vehicle, even if it's speeding at 100 miles per hour.

Officers demonstrated how the cameras link up to police databases, computers process the data, and look for things like outstanding warrants or stolen cars. They made an arrest during that ride along, a man with an outstanding warrant.

At the time officers told FOX13 News the cameras gave them a big advantage.

Fast-forward four years. MPD cruisers are still heading out on patrol with the cameras, but the advantage is gone. Those cameras aren't working.

Officers say the cameras have been down for awhile and the police department said they haven't been operational for months.

The problem deals with issues with both the hardware mounted on the patrol cars and the software used to process the license plate information.

The cameras are sold by Memphis-based company SkyCop. Police departments around the country have been using similar technology. They've been called a critical tool that can help officers capture fugitives and find vehicles involved in crimes.
    
MPD is looking into fixing the broken cameras. A request for bids could be going out soon, But a police commander says the department needs to balance the cost of the camera systems with other needs during this tight budget season.

At this point we don't know how much it will cost the city.
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