CPD to get license plate readers

COVINGTON — The Covington Police Department is going high tech.

The CPD is purchasing four license plate readers that will let officers instantly know if a motorist has an expired tag or license or is a wanted criminal.

The Covington City Council approved Monday evening the purchase of four license plate readers from Applied Intelligent Systems out of Alpharetta for $62,897.

Each reader contains four cameras placed at different angles that are mounted on officers’ cars. When activated, they can scan tags, covering all lanes of traffic, said Lt. Al Miller, who along with Sgt. Allen Martin, coordinated the bidding and selection processes.

Officers will immediately be notified if a tag is expired, the car has been reported stolen, there is a warrant out for the registered driver or if the driver has an expired license. The system can run tag numbers through the Georgia Crime Information Center and the National Crime Information Center.

“It will help us on day-to-day operations. It’s another tool that we can use to do proactive traffic enforcement making sure tags are valid and (drivers) aren’t driving on a suspended license,” Miller said, adding that it’s similar to running radar to check if someone is speeding.

The devices can also assist during emergency situations, such as Amber Alerts, if law enforcement has a tag number on a suspect’s vehicle, Miller said. The devices can instantly print out photos of the tag that the officer can visually confirm and the tags will also still run through dispatch to make sure the scanners are accurate, he said.

The database will also be tied in to the Iron Sky system of cameras at red lights and intersections in some communities and to other similar systems throughout the country. So, for example, if a person drove from Florida to Georgia to commit a crime and the tag of the suspect’s vehicle had been captured by license plate readers along the way, that could provide tracking information and possibly assist with prosecution, Miller said.

“We try to find ways for technology to assist the officers in being more observant and this is like an extra set of eyes looking for violators at an exponentially higher level than an officer can do it,” said Covington Police Chief Stacey Cotton. “Our main focus on this is going to be folks with expired tags and wanted persons. The system is customizable so we can put (in) people who failed to come to our court. We may have issued a warrant in traffic court on the car that they were in and we can tag it to their car.”

Cotton said police departments all over the country are using the technology, including the Conyers Police Department.