License plate reader cracking down on Richmond Co. roadways

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, July 18, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) - New technology in Richmond County is cracking down much more on the roadways. Cameras mounted on patrol cars read license plate numbers that can pull up stolen cars and much more.

"Maybe if this was a couple of months ago, I would have been overjoyed about it," Ruby White said.

Her car was stolen in broad daylight right in front of her eyes.

"I got out, as soon as I walked to the door of the store, I heard my car pulling off," White said.

She stood there helpless, watching her car drive away.

Two weeks later, they found it.

"It was in Columbia County and it was involved in an armed robbery," White said.

Lt. Lewis Blanchard explained to News 12 how the system works.

"You've reported your vehicle stolen, a police car drives by the vehicle, it's going to alert," Blanchard said. "You know, our goal is to reduce car thefts."

Blanchard has the numbers to back it up. In 2011, there were 831 car thefts. In 2012, it dropped to 532.

But this year, Richmond County is already at 488 stolen cars.

"You can have a hundred officers looking for a specific tag and they can only do so much," he said.

The new system runs more than 1,000 plates in just one evening of patrol.

When the deputy gets an alert, it gives him more time to prepare for the stop.

"He would still get that same information had he called dispatch and typed it into his MBT, however he's getting it 10 times quicker this way," he said.

And it would help people like White rest a little easier.

"Maybe that would stop a lot of thieves from stealing cars," she said. "I wouldn't wish that on anyone."

The Aiken County Sheriff's Office is also looking to add new technology to its patrol cars to help track suspect vehicles. It's getting money from the 2013 Justice Assistance Grant, and Sheriff Michael Hunt wants to use it to purchase two license plate recognition systems and a back office system server.

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