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New crime-fighting tool: Why license plate readers are going up in some Paso Robles intersections

Posted at 2:44 PM, Dec 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-22 01:37:35-05

New cameras will soon go up in the City of Paso Robles to catch criminals.

The purchase of an automated license plate reader system was recently approved by the Paso Robles City Council. It’ll cost $100,000 but the police department says its use will be invaluable.

The new crime-fighting tool aims to nab criminals in stolen vehicles, with stolen license plates, wanted in crimes, or even vehicles part of child abduction emergency alerts.

“We’re able to run that vehicle through those license plates and know that hey, it left southbound on Highway 101,” explained Commander Caleb Davis, Paso Robles Police Department. “That certainly gives our officers the ability to only look south as opposed to 360 degrees."

Eyes in the sky will soon go up in Paso Robles, meaning six cameras in total will be installed on the south and north ends of Spring Street. This includes the intersections of Spring and 1st and Spring near 36th.

The cameras will take a snapshot of the license plates that come through and run them against a nationwide database of wanted plates. If there’s a match, it’ll send alerts to officers and dispatch.

“We’ve had more crime this year than we've had in the past, and having the ability to see if suspicious vehicles or vehicles that were in question in our crimes have left our city would have certainly been helpful,” Commander Davis said.

The technology is utilized by more than 200 law enforcement agencies in California, according to the State Auditor Report. In fact, the California Highway Patrol uses it in some patrol cars.

“This first started as a test project in 2003 and then in 2005 it was fully deployed throughout the state,” said Officer Jose Meza of CHP Templeton. “Currently, we have 116 systems working throughout the state.”

In 2019, CHP says it used the technology to recover 298 stolen vehicles statewide which led to the arrests of 55 suspects.

While skeptics are concerned over privacy, Paso Robles PD says no locals have voiced concerns to them over the project so far.

CHP adds all data is deleted every 60 days.

The first cameras are slated to go up early next year with the second round along Highway 46 in the Fall.

The project is being paid for through the new sales tax measure that was passed by voters in Paso Robles last month.