UPDATE: The Savannah City Council Thursday approved more than $30,000 for five license plate readers for SCMPD traffic units.
The readers could be in place as soon as the beginning of the year.
They are controversial and effective. Called “Big Brother” by some or “an important crimefighting tool” by others
Now Savannah-Chatham Metro Police are one step away from putting license plate readers in their cars.
The Savannah City Council will vote Thursday whether to spend more than $30,000 on license plate readers for 5 SCMPD cars.
Readers that the Chatham County Sheriff’s have had for two and a half years.
“Just yesterday i picked up a guy from Cobb County, a sex offender that failed to register. had a Michigan tag, but it came back to him,” explained Cpl Roger Brown of the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office.
Cpl Roger Browne of the CCSO Criminal Intradiction Unit has been working with license plate readers on the highways and he says they’ve made a difference.
“Last month it picked up on a stolen tag, tag stolen out of Savannah,” said Browne. “The car actually was stolen out of South Carolina. There was a convicted felon in the car that actually had a stolen gun. So we ended up getting him off the streets.”
Other felons its helped bring to justice, Bryce Williams, the Virginia television shooter. And Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
“Wanted people from different states, vehicles with no insurance which is a big one around here, and expired tags,” who Browne says he’s been able to find and arrest.
A simple system, four cameras mounted to the car, checking four lanes of tags in a split second.
“(My job is) to make sure the cameras are reading the exact tags that are on the vehicle. Make sure it doesn’t misread, because of course it isn’t 100%.” explains the Corporal. “I have to verify that the picture that the camera brings up matches the tag thats its actually reading,”
As we did the story, the first tag Browne read set off the alarms.
“And of course that tag is expired,” said Browne. “Tells me insurance is valid but registration is expired. So in a matter of 10 seconds i would know.”
Right now departments in Port Wentworth, Bloomingdale, Pooler and Rincon among others have the cameras. SCMPD could be next.
For those people who think its “Big Brother”, Browne tells me the cameras only look at the license plates for a moment, and doesn’t store any personal information from any driver.