More police cars in the Prince Albert area will be equipped with automatic licence plate readers in the coming months as a result of investment by SGI.
Currently, 13 police cars across the province are equipped with the devices, including one in Prince Albert.
“They’re supposed to be installed in June,” SGI media relations manager Kelley Brinkworth said. “So I would say by the end of June … there will be 20 in total across the province and … two in P.A.”
Automatic licence plate readers work by using infra-red technology to scan licence plates and alert police officers when a plate is linked to a stolen or unregistered vehicle, a suspended driver, a reported impaired driver or an individual wanted by police.
While most licence plates will emit a normal beep, a “flagged” plate will cause a different-sounding beep in order to alert the officer.
To date, SGI has invested $485,000 in automatic licence plate readers for the RCMP and municipal police agencies, encompassing both the 13 existing devices installed in police vehicles as well as the seven new ones.
“One thing that we’ve been told is that it’s a real time-saver for (police). It helps them be a lot more efficient,” Brinkworth said.
She cited an estimate by White Butte RCMP Const. Kaufmann, who said that police with automatic licence plate readers can check 10 plates in 10 seconds compared to 10 plates every 15 minutes when entering the information manually.
“Basically, it’s a lot quicker and it’s just doing it automatically so they don’t have to key those numbers into their system and they can keep their hands on the wheel,” Brinkworth said.
“They can keep their eyes on the road, so it’s just safer for them (and) it’s more efficient as well.”
Another benefit for police of the technology is an increased ability to find reported impaired drivers at large events such as the Craven Country Jamboree.
One concern previously expressed by British Columbia’s Information and Privacy Commissioner was the storage and sharing by police of information on drivers who are not wanted by police.
In its probe of the Victoria Police Department’s use of licence recognition technology, the privacy commissioner ordered the RCMP to make changes to its automated licence plate scanning system, which in Victoria at the time required deletion of “non-data” information after it was downloaded by officers.
They can keep their eyes on the road, so it’s just safer for them (and) it’s more efficient as well. Kelley Brinkworth
Brinkworth pointed out that for the devices being used in Saskatchewan, scanned plates that are not of interest to the police are cleared from the system immediately in the police vehicle and are not stored.
“It’s really no different than … if there’s a police officer that pulls up behind you and manually types in your plate number to check it, because police … do have access to SGI’s database of registered vehicle owner information to do their job, so that’s the information that they’re accessing,” Brinkworth said.
“It’s the same kind of situation. This is just doing it automatically, but that’s cleared right off. Now, if the plate is a possible offender, then that information is saved … Let’s say that’s linked to a person that is a suspended driver, then they would have a record of that.”
The current expansion of automatic licence plate readers to 20 police vehicles across Saskatchewan represents a trial run of sorts, with more likely to be installed should the technology prove successful.
The main concern, Brinkworth noted, is identifying high-risk drivers quickly and getting them off the road in order to prevent a possible crash leading to injury or death.
“It’s a good fit for SGI and our traffic safety strategy here,” she said. “So in future, we do plan to purchase more of these devices for police, and as far as when specifically or where they’ll be located, that hasn’t been decided yet.
“But we do know that police … like the technology and it is beneficial to help improve road safety for everybody, so it is something that we’re looking into.”
Additional information on how the automatic licence plate readers work is available at www.sgi.sk.ca.