HANCOCK COUNTY, Ind. — Law enforcement agencies across the country are being equipped with additional technology, not only to increase safety but to also make their jobs easier.
The Hancock County Sheriff’s Department is now utilizing automatic license plate readers. Two cameras were added to a total of seven vehicles in July as part of a $69,000, five-year program.
“It’s an investigative tool for us, other agencies, for investigators to make our job hopefully work better and capture the people needs to be captured or found,” said Hancock County Sheriff Brad Burkhart.
Sheriff Burkhart explains the reader works in conjunction with their body-worn and car cameras, as well as the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and National Crime Intelligence Center.
“So, it collects data of anything that would be entered into a state or federal database. So things like stolen vehicles, missing persons, amber alerts, violent suspects of some sorts. So anything that can be attached to a license plate can be entered into the system,” said Burkhart.
While deputies patrol the streets the two cameras that sit on the front of their cruisers are processing crime data and the license plates looking for a potential hit. Once they get the hit, the officer and the department is alerted.
Sgt. Nick Ernstes got one in August when teenagers stole a vehicle from Minnesota headed to South Carolina on Interstate 70. The information was entered into the NCIC. As Sgt. Ernstes sat on I-70 he got a hit and pursued the vehicle.
“Attempted to do a traffic stop and the vehicle fled into Henry County. We made apprehension after the vehicle ran into a cornfield, said Sgt. Ernstes. “Had I not had the license plate reader I wouldn’t have known that that vehicle was a hot list vehicle as it drove by me.”
Deputies also have the ability to enter manually enter a license plate of a potential suspect. Once the plate is entered, it will show if the plate has been read previously and where. This allows deputies to establish a potential timeline.
Sheriff Burkhart says it’s a tool that takes away a lot of the manual work officers do on a daily basis while also enhancing their ability to catch the crooks and work with other agencies across the country.
“I think response time, technology, officer safety — being able to automatically do those things on its own makes our jobs better, makes them safer and the job easier,” said Burkhart.
Once their contract expires in 2015, the department will reassess and see if they’ve like to upgrade or increase their fleet.