New tool could help Amarillo Police Department track down violent criminals faster

KFDA NEWS AT SIX - VOD - clipped version

AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - After seeing an increase in gun violence last year, the Amarillo Police Department is now trying to purchase a system that it’s expected to help them identify suspects of these gun crimes through license plate recognition.

“From 2019 to 2020, we saw a rise about 708 violent crimes per 100 thousand people to just over 801 violent crimes per 100 thousand people,” said Jeb Hilton, public information officer at the Amarillo Police Department. “The community has been getting a hold of us and asking, how are you going to fix this.”

In an attempt to get gun crimes down, APD requested a grant for $103,850 through the Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) program to purchase a Vigilant License Plate Recognition (LPR) System. Leaving a balance of $1,150 to be funded by the city.

“So, when those reports come in, we’ll be able to activate that system,” said Hilton. “We’ll have some that are set in certain places and then will have others that are on patrol vehicles that are going throughout the city, and we’ll be able to activate those and catch any of these license plates that are leaving the area.”

Currently, when a major crime happens, all officers take manual notes of any vehicles leaving the area of the crime and record license plate numbers.

This new system will do something similar, but rather than using the officer’s eyes, it will be cameras.

“We’re not sitting here trying to look at people’s expired registrations, we’re not looking to track anybody where they’re going,” said Hilton. “We’re using this for crime-related purposes only.”

According to APD, the readers will delete information gathered after 30 days, unless it is used as evidence in a case.

Police expect the system to also be useful during amber alerts.

“If there’s a suspect vehicle license plate, we can put it into the system and have it watching to see if that license plate happens to come through our city, if it is, it’ll alert us,” said Hilton.

The City Council approved the purchase of the system last week.

The department says it still doesn’t know in which specific areas it will be installing the readers.

However, the new tool should be in place later this year.

Copyright 2021 KFDA. All rights reserved.