Fairmont Police: License Plate Readers Proving To Be Effective - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Fairmont Police: License Plate Readers Proving To Be Effective

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More and more police departments across the state are now using Automatic License Plate Readers, or LPR's.

It started as a tool for state troopers and then began to spread state-wide.

The Buckhannon Police Department began using LPR's in January and now the Fairmont Police Department has had them installed on a patrol car as well.

They sit on the back of many police cars and are proving to be very effective in our state.

"I passed a vehicle and it alerted that it was a possible stolen plate. I turned around and got behind the vehicle. I contacted my dispatcher and had them run the plate. They confirmed that it was a stolen plate out of Fairmont, West Virginia. I stopped the vehicle and proceeded with my criminal investigation," said David Wolford, Fairmont Police Department.

That is one of many examples of how license plate readers can help local law enforcement.

When an officer drives down the highway, through a neighborhood, or even by a school, the license plate reader is scanning every single vehicle they pass.

"When it sees a plate, it has a database inside of the hard drive and if the matching numbers and letters correspond to something that's in the PC, which is from the hot list we receive from Charleston, it alerts," Wolford said.

When a plate is scanned, it's checked with a hot list provided by the West Virginia Intelligence Exchange to determine if that vehicle was used in any criminal activity.

It will alert the officer if the vehicle is stolen, part of an Amber Alert, or even if the driver is a sex offender.

"A sex offender has to register their vehicle. So anytime I pass a registered sex offender it alerts to the fact that the vehicle is registered to them," Wolford said.

Many people raised the concern that it was an invasion of their privacy. But officers said no personal information is ever obtained during the scan.

"It only reads the plate as numbers. It doesn't give any information. I don't know who owns the plate, I don't know who owns the vehicle," Wolford said. "It doesn't come back to you live here. It doesn't have any of the information. It just reads the plate."

The Fairmont Police Department is one of many that has taken on the LPR program and they only see it growing from here.