Elizabethtown PD using license plate reader cameras to help solve crimes faster

Elizabethtown PD using license plate reader cameras to solve crimes faster
Published: May. 26, 2022 at 11:58 PM EDT
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ELIZABETHTOWN, N.C. (WECT) - With nine new license plate reader cameras at all entrances into Elizabethtown Police Chief Tony Parrish hopes to solve more crimes, faster than they have in the past.

“It will send them the date, time, camera it came by, a picture of the car and the reasoning for it-- if it is NCIC stolen vehicle, NCIC stolen license plate,” Parrish said.

Officers only alerted by cameras when certain vehicles pass by.
Officers only alerted by cameras when certain vehicles pass by.(WECT)

These cameras make it easy for officers to solve things like a hit and run, too. If someone has at least a partial description of the vehicle, it can be searched for in the camera system within a matter of seconds.

Officers are only alerted about a license plate if it is registered in the national crime information center.

Since the camera installation started in March, they’ve solved 12 crimes.

“We solved three different hit and run traffic accidents. We arrested a person that was wanted for second degree rape. Based off these cameras we recovered three stolen tags. We recovered a stolen vehicle and in that stolen vehicle, we recovered weapons and drugs,” Parrish said. “There was a person in the passenger seat and he had outstanding warrants from another jurisdiction, so he was arrested.”

Community members have taken to social media saying they believe the cameras are an invasion of privacy.

The ACLU has gone on record questioning cameras like these, saying they can pose a security threat, but that also depends on how long the picture of their car is stored in a database. For Elizabethtown, that’s only 30 days.

“A car with a tag is public record anyways. We’re not gaining anything that’s not already out there that other people can get,” Parrish said.

The Chief says the main focus for the cameras is to help solve crimes.

“There’s no way you can come into Elizabethtown without passing one of these cameras. The people that were committing crimes were from outside the area. So, I put one at each entry point into town so they have got to come past a camera to get into town to commit a crime. So, they’ve got to come by that camera so we can see their license plate,” Parrish said.

In previous years they have relied on low resolution security cameras on businesses and houses that sometime make it hard to make out a simply description of a car. Now, officers can take something as simple as the color and make of the vehicle to sort through vehicles that match the description.

“When we get these videos from these other stores and home cameras, we can look at their good description of car then go back and start searching these cameras until we find the actual car getting the license plate run the tag.”

Cameras cannot be used for minor traffic violations, like speeding.

“So, hopefully, by them knowing that that will deter them from coming to this town to commit crimes. And when they do come, we’re gonna use the cameras and will make an arrest,” Parrish said.

The cameras were installed by Elizabethtown PD with donations from local businesses. The total cost was $24, 700.

Below is a map of where the cameras are located (indicated by red “x”):

Elizabethtown camera locations.
Elizabethtown camera locations.(WECT)

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