Oklahoma City to explore purchase of license plate scanning equipment

The Oklahoma City Council gave the green light this week for city staff to negotiate the purchase of license plate scanning equipment for police patrol cars. The equipment can show officers instantly if nearby vehicles are stolen or wanted as part of a criminal investigation.
BY MICHAEL KIMBALL mkimball@opubco.com Modified: November 15, 2012 at 9:05 pm •  Published: November 16, 2012
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The Oklahoma City Police Department soon could become the latest state law enforcement agency to use a system that instantly scans license plates to determine whether a vehicle has been stolen, used in a crime or involved in a missing person's case.

The Oklahoma City Council voted Tuesday to authorize city staff to negotiate the purchase of up to eight of the systems, which use a camera and a computer to check license plate numbers against those flagged in law enforcement databases.

The city expects to purchase the systems from Missouri-based TurnKey Mobile, but the terms and exact equipment have not yet been determined.

The Oklahoma County sheriff's office and Shawnee police are among law enforcement agencies in Oklahoma that already use similar systems.

What technology does

The license plate scanning systems give law enforcement officers information similar to what they would get about a vehicle if they or a dispatcher used their own computer to look up a license plate number. But the systems can scan about 2,000 license plates per minute — essentially any license plate that comes within view of the camera.

“It will allow the officer to be more effective in a very short amount of time in looking for anything involving any of those types of situations,” said police Capt. Dexter Nelson, a department spokesman.

Onboard computers signal the officer if the system gets a hit.

Systems have stirred controversy

License plate scanning technology has proved to be controversial because of privacy concerns. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit in federal court in Massachusetts, seeking records from the U.S. Justice and Homeland Security departments on the government's use of the technology.

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