New equipment to help U.P. recover stolen vehicles

A new piece of equipment recently purchased by University Police will allow officers to find stolen vehicles, wanted persons and suspended and revoked licenses.

The Mobile Plate Hunter 900 [MP900] was recently purchased by U.P. through a grant obtained by the Department of Homeland Security, Assistant Police Chief John Rossi said in a press release.

The device itself is made up of two cameras mounted on the back of a police cruiser. The cameras scan license plates and transmit the numbers through a computer located in the front of the cruiser. The software then runs the plate numbers through a database of license plates connected to crimes, said U.P. Officer Rich Sherwood.

"The hot list comes from the N.Y. State Department of Motor Vehicles," Sherwood said. The list is updated by the state twice a day.

"Research has shown that patrol officers equipped with this technology can have arrest rates significantly higher than those working without it,"
Rossi stated in the press release. "This will deliver reductions in crime, enhanced community safety, safer roads and a safer campus."

If a license plate on the hot list is found by the MP900, an alarm goes off and the officer on duty is required to call into dispatch to report it. The MP900 software will tell the officer what illegal activity the license plate in question is connected to, Sherwood said.

"We’ve come across a few suspended and revoked licenses," Sherwood said. He added that University Police would not have noticed the suspended licenses without it.

The MP900 also allows officers to look up information on specific plates instead of just relying on the hot list, Sherwood said. The system can also be used to help find vehicles involved in Amber Alerts.

"For a case of a missing college student it will be very helpful," Rossi said.

Plates that have been scanned are saved on the software. This could be helpful in an investigation when an officer would need to find out where the last time a specific car was seen.

"[It’s] just another tool that helps us find violators," Sherwood said.

It can scan up to nine plates per second and 400 per minute, Sherwood said. The MP900 can also operate at night because of its infrared technology. Also, if an Amber Alert for a missing child was released by the state, the MP900 software could be used to help find a vehicle connected in the case.

"Our officers seem to enjoy it," Rossi said.