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West Fargo police begin using Automated License Plate Recognition system

WEST FARGO - The West Fargo Police Department says it's the first in the state to use an Automated License Plate Recognition system on a patrol car to identify vehicles that have been reported stolen or involved in a criminal act.

West Fargo police started using the system in June. It was purchased in part with federal grant funding.

Assistant Police Chief Mike Reitan explained in a news release how the system works:

The technology uses a dedicated computer system and specialized cameras to capture license plate images. It continually scans the camera's field of view for the presence of a license plate, and when it detects one, the camera captures both color and infrared images of the vehicle and plate.

The computer reads the infrared image and converts it to a data file, which is then compared against a database of stolen or wanted vehicle files. If there's a match, the officer receives an alert message and then must visually confirm the match and take the appropriate action.

The database is maintained by North Dakota State Radio and is updated twice daily. The database also may be expanded locally to include vehicle information relating to Amber Alerts, sexual offenders, criminal investigations and drug enforcement.

The license plate recognition technology was developed in the early 1990s and has found use in law enforcement, parking enforcement systems, access control and homeland security.