Headquartered in the Atlanta area city of Decatur, Georgia, Utility is a leading provider of technology solutions for law enforcement and first responders nationwide. Utility, Inc. offers police departments state-of-the-art hardware and software that ranges from intelligent body cameras to comprehensive digital evidence management platforms.
In August of 2022, Utility finalized a contract with the Olive Branch Police Department in the Memphis, Tennessee suburb of Olive Branch, Mississippi. This contract secured a multifaceted municipal ALPR (automated license plate reader) system that Utility will install within the next two months as an independent contractor. The Olive Branch Police Department already contracts with Utility to serve its body camera needs.
The decision to install the ALPR system came after a period of deliberation by Olive Branch officials. On August 3, the Olive Branch Board of Aldermen voted five to one to proceed with the proposed ALPR program, calling the move “another commitment to public safety.”
Although ALPR technology dates back to the late 1970s, it has only risen to widespread popularity in recent years. Briefly defined, an automated license plate reader is a specialized camera that is designed to be mounted to a fixed outdoor location or a patrol car with the singular purpose of capturing every license plate that passes before it. After “reading” license plate numbers as digital video, computers pair this data with precise time, date, and GPS information and upload it to a searchable database platform that is constantly updated and easily accessible to law enforcement.
The use of ALPRs in law enforcement is becoming increasingly common. Other Mississippi cities that currently employ the technology include Ocean Springs and Ridgeland.
Utility will provide the Olive Branch Police Department with 24 ALPR cameras, all of which will be fixed in place and none of which will be attached to police vehicles. By setting up a camera at each entrance to the city, police officers and government officials will dramatically increase their existing ability to track movement into and out of Olive Branch.
By reading and recording the license tags of all vehicles coming inside the city limits, law enforcement officials will be in a far better position to respond promptly to situations such as Amber Alerts (for abducted children) and Silver Alerts (for at-risk senior citizens). By identifying vehicles with suspected connections to criminal activity, Olive Branch’s new ALPR system will give police a pronounced advantage in the fight against all types of lawbreakers.
Speaking to DeSoto County News, Olive Branch mayor Ken Adams said,“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.” As an example of the power of ALPRs, Adams remarked, “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.”
Mayor Adams went on to address public concerns that the new ALPR system constitutes an egregious police overreach or presents serious privacy concerns. On August 5, he released a statement asserting that the cameras will not be used to generate routine traffic tickets. Furthermore, the city’s 24 ALPRs will record license plate numbers only, not the people who are driving or riding inside the vehicles.
The recorded footage from Olive Branch’s ALPR cameras will go to the city 911 Dispatch Center’s secure cloud storage database. This process is incredibly efficient and cost-effective because the same database already stores all of the Olive Branch Police Department’s body camera footage. Because they are powered by the solar energy that they collect, Olive Branch’s ALPRs draw no electricity from the municipal grid.
The total cost of Olive Branch’s ALPR cameras will run roughly $297,000 paid in five annual installments of about $60,000 per year. “A little over 50 percent of our annual general fund is spent on Public Safety—Fire, Police and EMS,” said Mayor Adams. “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.”
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