KMOX TV, the CBS affiliate in St. Louis, reported recently on the city’s video surveillance system, which they refer to as the Real-Time Crime Center (RTCC).
Established by St. Louis Police, the RTCC boasts 140 surveillance cameras that are controllable by a team of detectives at the department’s headquarters who can then relay information to officers in the field in real time. In addition to the standard surveillance cameras, a significant part of the RTCC is a number of ALPR cameras, which have generated 48 arrests resulting in 126 criminal charges between June 18th and October 1st of this year. Like the standard surveillance cameras, the ALPR units are centrally controlled.
This is the evolution of ALPR happening right before our eyes. Until very recently, the use of ALPR has been restricted primarily to units mounted on law enforcement patrol vehicles and operated by individual police officers. While these mobile ALPR systems have been useful up to a point, most law enforcement agencies that use them have never been able to deploy them en masse to the point where truly comprehensive ALPR coverage of a municipality could be assured.
With usually only one or two units deployed in any given city, the ALPR-equipped patrol vehicle had to be in the right place at the right time to capture the plate of a fugitive. Certainly, it was far better to have these systems deployed than not, and indeed, our first product at PlateSmart was a cost-effective, flexible mobile solution for police vehicles. But I knew from the beginning that it was only through mass deployment that ALPR was going to be essential in creating safer cities and providing critical information.
St. Louis and other cities like it are showing us how true that is.
Not only do such systems provide more comprehensive coverage of a scene, but also ensuring improved situational awareness and therefore more enhanced force protection. Consequently, proving to be quite cost-effective when weighed against the amount of information they produce.
Furthermore, they enable officers in the field to better focus their attention on the job at hand when they do not have to worry about operating ALPR technology themselves, but still receive the real-time mission-critical data they need. This scenario enables all officers to benefit from all of the surveillance cameras and ALPR cameras running at once, instead of just the few officers equipped with the technology reaping most of the advantages.
What St. Louis is doing is the future of surveillance and also the future of our industry. What’s more, if your city already has surveillance cameras in place, it’s a relatively simple and affordable matter to add the software-based functionality such as PlateSmart’s ARES to your system without having to add or replace cameras or server hardware.
The potential for fixed-location ALPR-equipped surveillance systems isn’t limited just to cities. Factories, power plants, military bases, or any other sensitive facilities can benefit from the advantages such technology offers.
Just in the past year, with the attacks staged at various military bases around the country, we have seen the necessity for the enhanced force protection that a system like PlateSmart’s ARES could provide.
Had it been in place, for example, the morning of the Washington Navy Yard shooting, there is a strong possibility the perpetrator would not have made it inside, because he was not driving his own vehicle. At Fort Meade, Maryland, in March of this year, ARES could have alerted the front gate to the approaching stolen car that tried to crash through before the vehicle was even sighted.
With that kind of advance warning, the situation might have been contained before there was any loss of life.
Enterprise ALPR-equipped video surveillance systems are the future because they serve so many purposes. They help to protect not only the public, but also the men and women who put their lives on the line every day in public service. They can help locate abducted children in the critical first three hours after they go missing.
When they can’t prevent a crime, they provide rock-solid forensic evidence to help ensure that the perpetrators are caught and brought to justice. In short, this technology provides city authorities and anyone else who has the need with intelligent eyes that never sleep. I am confident that it is only a matter of time before more cities follow St. Louis’ lead.