Double Springs installing license plate readers

Motorists traveling on all of Double Springs main roads, which all intersect at the above area of town, will soon be passing by cameras that read license plates and enter the numbers into a state database to help law enforcement. The exact location of the cameras has not been disclosed.

DOUBLE SPRINGS        - A major tool to help the Double Springs Police Department work with other agencies has been approved by the Double Springs Town Council, with the purchase of Flock Safety’s license plate-reading cameras.
The town council, at a recent meeting, unanimously approved obtaining five cameras  at a cost of $1,145 a month under a two-year contract.
“They are $229 a month per camera,” Police Chief Kim Miller explained to Mayor Elmo Robinson and town council members.
Alabama Power conducted a survey and took pictures, determining it would take five cameras at the town’s main entry points: Highway 195, both north and southbound; Highway 278, both east and westbound and Highway 33, Miller explained.
“We’ve used these through other departments,” Miller said. “Every tag it reads goes into the system.  So, if we are looking for a certain car, every camera in the State of Alabama on the Flock system, once that car hits that camera, it is going to report it to us.
 “There are 800 cameras in Jefferson County alone. A lot of your police departments have them,”  Miller added.
If the town had the license tag cameras when Harrison Drugs was broken into several months ago, it would have helped police learn the license plate on the suspect’s vehicle, Miller told mayor and council members.
“We could have traced him all the way back to Jefferson County, just by having his tag number,” Miller noted.
“Are there grants out there for any of this?” Council Member Tim Cockrell asked.
“Not for this,” Miller responded.
Miller added the town could receive internet access on each camera, with  officers being able to see what the camera sees from computers in their patrol cars, as well as on their phones.
“Every time you enter a tag, it is going to pop up,” said Miller.
Miller recently received a call from Addison Police of a vehicle being tracked by Lauderdale County law enforcement on Highway 33, a suspect who was believed to have conducted a kidnapping with death threats made.
The vehicle in which the suspect was allegedly traveling was scanned by the license camera system at Moulton, with the next scan of the tag showing the same vehicle in Cullman, Chief Miller explained.
“They were giving everybody a heads up, do not stop this car,” Chief Miller stated. “Watch it. We need to follow it until he gets (the one abducted) out of the car.
“There’s a lot of need for it, but a lot of expense to it, too,” Miller pointed out.
“It saves police officers a lot of work trying to find (someone),” Robinson added.
“I am for it,” Cockrell said, “if it gets any drugs off the street.”
Miller told the council if officers see a strange vehicle coming through the town periodically, the license tag number can be photographed and entered into the system, telling law enforcement from where that vehicle came.
“If they come into Double Springs, they are going to be seen,” Cockrell stated.
“What you are paying for is the maintenance of the system,” Miller said.
“It is a lot of money,” said Cockrell, “but, like I said, if it saves someone’s life or gets drugs off the street... Somewhere along the line, we are going to spend that money as far as donations and stuff. I’m on board to go ahead and do it.
“If somebody got broke into, we just caught them because of those,” Council Member Andy McSpadden used as an example. “That just saved a business or a homeowner.”
Miller explained that if someone broke into a home and the homeowner got a description of the vehicle leaving the scene, law enforcement can enter the description of the vehicle into the database and the system will show every vehicle matching that description that came through the area where the camera took the picture.
“There may be 300 of them that you have to cipher between, but then you can cut it down into timeframes that show you what time it went through the camera,” Miller explained.
“It will definitely benefit the police department and the town,” Cockrell responded.
“It doesn’t record what is going on. It just snaps tags, right?” Council Member Brittany Tucker asked.
“Every tag it sees, (the camera) is going to snap,” responded Miller.  “It’s going to take a picture of the rear and the tag of the vehicle.”
“If there’s a wreck, it’s not going to record the whole wreck,” Tucker noted. “It’s just going to snap tags.”
“I would like to get all five (cameras),” Robinson pointed out. “It will free up police officers.”
Cockrell made the motion to purchase all five cameras, with council member Adam Veal seconding the motion, and all voting in favor, including Cockrell, Veal, McSpadden, Tucker and Hobby Walker.
Miller assured the new cameras will not determine speed or any traffic violations, but are valuable tools used in trafficking stolen vehicles, robbery suspects, gas drive-offs, leaving the scene of an accident, drug traffickers, etc.
“We have the capability with this system to enter a tag number we’re searching for and, anywhere in the state of Alabama this tag goes by, it is going to give us an alert,” Miller stated.
“Several agencies surrounding Double Springs and counties have these systems in place,” he added.  “It’s like having five officers posted at these points looking for a particular vehicle,” Miller noted.
“If we can get every town in Winston County with one of these (cameras) in it, do you know what networking that is going to be?” Miller said.  “It’s a good thing for law enforcement, because you’ve got eyes everywhere, where you can’t have officers everywhere.”



See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.
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