Crime fighters are always looking for new and better ways to catch the crooks. In Lighthouse Point, police use cameras to track down suspects. That's not exactly new, but the way police are doing it is.
Police Chief Ross Licata received a federal grant three years ago as part of Lighthouse Point's contributions to a Drug Enforcement Administration task force. With the money, the city bought a License Plate Recognition system, or LPR.
The system is a set of 44 cameras, strategically placed throughout the municipality, that take snapshots of license plates on every car that passes through town.
"You can't enter or leave the city without an LPR camera capturing your license plate,” Licata said.
The Lighthouse Point images are sent back to dispatch and into a system that tries to match the tag number with numbers that have been entered into national and statewide criminal data systems. If a match is made, an alert goes off. It's verified by the dispatcher and police on the streets are fed the information to make the stop.
Licata said that over three years his crews have made over 100 arrests for stolen cars, arson, burglaries, bank robberies, and countless other crimes. Lighthouse Point Police also confiscated more than $750,000.
If there's a need, they can also review old tag captures – as police did on Monday. They had a description of a silver Chrysler 300M. They entered that information into the system and found what they were looking for. They ran the plate, found the owner, and arrested two teens who are accused of using the car to burglarize a Lighthouse Point home.
All total, the city is in for roughly $500,000 for the LPR system and its maintenance – none of which actually comes from taxpayers. It's paid for by the crooks themselves, through seizures and busts.
"We couldn't think of a better way to spend criminals’ money,” Licata said.
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