INDIANAPOLIS — By Friday, more than 200 license plate readers will be in use across Indianapolis.
The devices, commonly known as LPRs, capture the license plate and picture of every car that passes them.
The LPRs can be seen on top of police cars, light poles and more throughout the city. The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department already has dozens out, and there will be 214 total by Friday.
IMPD detectives can use them as digital witnesses.
”They are digitally canvassing an area where a crime has occurred that they are investigating,” IMPD Commander Matthew Thomas said.
182 LPRs will be stationary and spread out throughout districts outside of downtown, 22 will be stationary in downtown, and 10 will be on IMPD vehicles.
Thomas said IMPD will not be announcing where each LPR is, but they will be visible.
”We don’t want people who are involved in criminal activity to avoid certain routes on purpose,” Thomas said.
With extra eyes being added in Indy communities, this can bring up concerns about surveillance. IMPD said people do not need to be worried.
”We can’t randomly search license plate readers. We need a case number to start that search and then an investigation into a crime,” Thomas said.
IMPD said it decided where to put the LPRs based of crime data with added expertise from community members.
“They’ve lived there for years, and they know,” Thomas said. “And quite frankly our community members have been excited about this level of engagement, being able to say, ‘Yes, the dot on the map for the crime may be there, but this is where you need an LPR because I see this over and over and over.'”
One area already with LPRs is Chris Staab’s neighborhood on the near eastside. He said he likes how they have been used so far.
”Because a lot of the times the community cannot be a great, reliable witness where a camera can be a far better witness,” Staab said.
Thomas said the LPRs have become standard investigative practice for detectives. They help solve a number of crimes. Most recently, LPRs were used in the investigation into the three Dutch soldiers shot in downtown Indy.
”When we have incidents in our entertainment zones, our downtown areas, we’re using this technology immediately to get results,” Thomas said.
LPRs can also help when there aren’t any witnesses to crimes, like late night hit-and-runs.
“Having these digital witnesses in place captures that information. We’re able to match that up to the criminal incident reported,” Thomas said.
But Thomas said LPRs do not replace eye witnesses to a crime. It’s just another tool to help the investigation along.
”If they are able to provide anything, partial plate number, color, make, direction of travel, timeframe, all of that stuff helps narrow the focus,” Thomas said.
Thomas said another 30 LPRs will be added in the next couple months bringing the total citywide number to 244 by early fall.
IMPD also provided another update on new crime-fighting technology in the city. The gunshot detection systems being tested out on the near east side are nearly operational.
The city has three pilot programs in an area known for high crime and shootings on the near east side.
IMPD said the vendors are a few weeks from being used to pinpoint shootings.
”We expect in the next couple of weeks to start that phase two, and then after that we’ll move to phase three for the live dispatching of officers for a period for three weeks for each vendor,” Thomas said.
FOX59 has investigated the effectiveness of gunshot detection systems in other cities. You can find that story here.