Superior officials OK license plate recognition system for squad cameras

Nov. 21—SUPERIOR — The Superior Public Safety Committee approved a license plate recognition program for Superior Police Department squad car cameras at its Nov. 16 meeting and got an update on the search for a new police chief.

Police officers have been test driving the system, which was offered on a free trial basis with

the department's new AXON cameras

, since July. According to Police Chief Nicholas Alexander, the system increases safety for both officers and the public as well as efficiency in solving crimes.

The system can view license plates within a three-lane area and use them to query a "hot list" database for stolen autos, warrants and vehicles wanted for various reasons. These are the same systems officers would use to call or type in a plate, Alexander said, and they only focus on serious offenses. Fourteen vehicles are currently on the hot list, according to information provided to the committee.

If a flagged vehicle is recognized by the system, the officer is alerted almost instantaneously, according to Patrol Captain Paul Winterscheidt. They then visually confirm that the license plate matches the one on the database.

"The algorithm only works for numbers or letters, that's it. It doesn't look for a face," Winterscheidt said.

Footage would be retained for 30 days. Existing grant funds are available to cover the annual $10,000 cost of the system for two years, Alexander said, and it is compatible with stationary street camera license plate recognition systems.

"This one would work, you know, hand in hand with pretty much any of the options that are out there," he said.

A list of successes was presented to the committee. During the trial period, the system was used to help retrieve a number of stolen vehicles. Officers also used system records to investigate a suspicious death and identify key information to resolve the case. When a Superior business was burglarized, surveillance video captured a license plate number on the vehicle associated with the burglary suspect. The camera system located the suspect vehicle the following day and it was recovered for evidentiary purposes.

Winterscheidt said officers were able to use the technology to locate a suicidal person who had texted a picture of a wooded area. A sergeant checked records to see if any squads had passed the person's car recently and were able to use that information to find them at the archery range.

The item will move forward to the Dec. 5 City Council agenda for final approval.

Alexander, who retires in January, told the committee that his replacement could be announced by the end of the month. Two candidates have applied for the police chief position, and interviews are scheduled to take place Nov. 28.

He also discussed an expansion of the department's Pathways to Hope program, which offers treatment to people addicted to methamphetamine and opiates. He shared the same information at the Police and Fire Commission meeting Nov. 15. Utilizing additional grant funding, the program will expand to offer treatment to people struggling with addition to all illicit drugs and alcohol.

"So that will greatly increase the scope of the program. We should be able to help more people. Pretty excited about that," Alexander said.

The program's first graduate has also been tapped to become a peer advocate with the program.

"These programs have found they can bring additional services and perform better when they have somebody with lived experiences working within the program and with the clientele," Alexander said.