Calling it another commitment to public safety, Olive Branch officials are moving ahead with a program to install license plate reader cameras at each entrance to the city. The 5-1 vote at Tuesday night’s Board of Aldermen meeting means 24 cameras will be set up at each entrance to the city that can read license tags of vehicles coming inside the city limits.
Automated license plate readers are cameras attached to fixed locations or to patrol cars that capture every license plate that passes. The data is uploaded to searchable databases with the time, date, and GPS coordinates. In the case of Olive Branch, only fixed cameras are being installed with Tuesday’s action.
Mayor Ken Adams said Thursday that no traffic tickets will be written with the cameras, called LPRs. However, they can be used to identify vehicles believed to be involved in situations such as Amber Alerts and Silver Alerts and if vehicles said to be a part of criminal activity come into Olive Branch. They will only record license plate numbers, not the people inside the vehicle.
A company called Utility, Inc. is being contracted for the LPRs and that is the same company that provides the police department’s body cameras. Cloud storage for the body camera footage will now also house the license plate reader footage.
“The goal is to detect criminal activity if there is a warrant, deter criminals who learn we have these from coming into our city and to allow investigators to more quickly solve crimes if they occur,” Adams told DeSoto County News. “Out of the last seven months we have had three firearms incidents where a firearm was discharged and in all three cases the person charged was from Memphis and two of them had active warrants pending from Memphis who may have been detected by this system.”
All information gleaned from the LPRs will go to the city’s 911 Dispatch Center, Adams said. The solar-powered cameras are similar to what many police cars have to read license plate numbers while on patrol.
Cost of the cameras will be about $297,000 over five years, or about $60,000 a year.
“A little over 50 percent of our annual general fund is spent on Public Safety—Fire, Police and EMS,” Adams said. “The Board and I are committed to do all within reason to add tools like this to protect our citizens and visitors. No city can eliminate crime but we are committed to aggressively address it.”
License plate readers are not that uncommon. Some locations, such as Ocean Springs, use LPRs to locate uninsured motorists. Columbus was considering LPRs earlier this year, with Pearl and Senatobia among cities that were also planning to install them. Ridgeland added 12 license plate reader cameras in that city last year. A report as far back as 2010 said Olive Branch had purchased an LPR for use inside a police vehicle.
The license plate readers should be up and operational in Olive Branch within two months.