Elizabethtown Police makes arrests using new license plate reader cameras

Nine new license plate readers were installed by the Elizabethtown Police Department around May to help track down criminals as they drive into town.
Published: Jul. 14, 2022 at 7:05 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Nine new license plate readers were installed by the Elizabethtown Police Department around May to help track down criminals as they drive into town.

According to EPD, they have solved nearly 20 crimes since they installed the license plate reader cameras.

Most recently, police stopped a stolen vehicle from an out-of-state carjacking. The license plate number was entered into a national database, which is taken from the National Crime Information Center by another agency.

Within minutes, officers were able to locate the stolen vehicle and make an arrest.

Lieutenant Lonnie Cheshire says that the cameras have been effective in preventing crimes because the system allows them to work with other agencies to makes arrests in cases to identify tags to several stolen properties.

“Everything from stolen vehicles to tags, as well as gun stolen guns. This program communicates directly with the NCIC. So, when that vehicle came through our jurisdiction, we received an alert within 20 seconds,” Lt. Cheshire said.

The cameras can be the difference between stopping a criminal or letting them get away.

“It gives you an eye out there that’s watching all the time. . .with these cameras, they’re running 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so when they see something, we’re receiving it within 30 seconds.”

Lt. Cheshire added that officers have seized nearly 25 grams of crystal meth and marijuana and recovered over $50,000 in stolen property since using these cameras.

The ACLU released the following statement after neighbors raised privacy concerns, since the cameras can scan everyone’s license plate who drives by:

“Constant surveillance like Flock cameras threaten to bring an entirely new level of surveillance to our communities. Mass surveillance systems have long been feared by those of us who value open, democratic societies, and for good reason. In the past two legislative sessions, bills to increase access to public rights of way for license plate cameras have been rejected by legislators on both sides of the aisle, suggesting there is some agreement that we need to create limits on surveillance before we allow it to proliferate.

As this type of mass surveillance becomes increasingly common, it raises constitutional questions about location tracking and privacy. But right now, the biggest concern is that this technology is expanding so quickly that it’s like the wild west--the law hasn’t had time to catch up and protect our privacy. For example, we should all be concerned about companies collecting massive amounts of information about our location, and having no legal limits on how long they can keep that data. While Flock might say it only stores location data for 30 days, there is no law requiring it to honor that promise.”

The Elizabethtown Police Department states that they only stores data for up to 30 days. Officers are only alerted when a vehicle with a license plate registered in the NCIC passes one of the cameras.

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