Several units of the Pennsylvania State Police are now equipped with new devices that will aid authorities in locating stolen vehicles.
In November the Automotive Theft Prevention Authority provided the state police with license plate readers which are mounted on the trunk deck of the cruisers. On the right side of the cruiser the reader is positioned forward while the reader on the left side of the cruiser is positioned to the rear where it can read the license plates of passing vehicles.
The software of the readers allows the device to zoom in on the license plate of any moving vehicle, whether it is positioned on the front, rear or under the rear portion of a vehicle including a large truck.
The license plate is read by the device with the information transferred from the cruiser to a satellite where it is delivered to a national crime information center. There it is checked for any "wants" such as being stolen or possibly the plate being stolen. The status of the plate is sent back to the cruiser with any background information, all within seconds.
If any criminal activity is associated with that license plate, the trooper is made aware of it and he can react accordingly.
Last year an elderly motorist drove away from his residence in Frackville. After not returning home the state police at the Frackville barrracks put out a BOLO (be on the lookout for) for the man early in the morning. That evening the state police were notified by Virginia State Police they had the man in their custody.
Virginia state police reported a license plate reader at the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel read the man's registration and in minutes determined they had a hit on the car. Sixteen miles later troopers were set up on the far side of the bridge and detained the man.
The units are on loan to the state police but numerous local municipal police are already looking into securing the devices.