Richmond County Sheriff's Office Using License Plate Readers - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

Richmond County Sheriff's Office Using License Plate Readers

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Augusta, GA -

The Richmond County Sheriff's Office is going high tech. Deputies are using license plate readers to pull up information about drivers and cars. The new technology will be able to identify stolen vehicles a whole lot faster.

The sheriff's office began testing and evaluating the license plate readers earlier this week. Deputies will test some other readers over the next 60 days. If the sheriff's office finds the readers to be useful, they hope to purchase some for next year.

As you drive around Richmond County, you may see a patrol car with four cameras mounted on the back of it that automatically read license plate numbers.

"It scans the tag. If there is anything wrong with the tag in the GCIC, our criminal system, it would alert and it would say for example, that car is wanted for an armed robbery suspect. That car is wanted as a stolen vehicle. Anything of a high nature, that deputy would be notified immediately," Lt. Lewis Blanchard says.

Normally a deputy has to type a license plate number into a computer first, but with the license plate reader a deputy could scan all the license plates in a parking lot in minutes.

Deputy Terry Skinner has been using the reader all week long. He says it's actually creating a lot more work for him because it's finding so many vehicles without insurance or registration. In fact, he says the sheriff's office has had to tow ten cars without insurance so far this week.

But the reader is also helping deputies find felons. On Thursday, deputies arrested Anthony Hannah in connection to local car break-ins. Skinner says he wouldn't have been able to make the arrest without the license plate reader.

"I was on the 800 block of Laney Walker and the tag reader alerted me that the vehicle I had just passed was wanted in questioning for vehicle break-ins. I pulled the vehicle over and the driver had outstanding warrants for breaking into vehicles," Skinner says.

And even though the reader scans every license plate it passes, that doesn't mean a deputy can look at anyone's information. Blanchard says the reader only alerts on vehicles that are already in the criminal database. And for Skinner, any information is useful information.

"It gives you a little bit of heads up before you stop the car. What you might be getting into," Skinner says.

Blanchard says the readers can cost anywhere from $12,000 to $20,000. He says the RCSO wants to buy some for next year, but the Augusta Commission will have to approve the purchase first.

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