Town and Country Goes High-Tech With Crime Fighting
We take a look at how technology is taking Town and Country crime fighting to a new level.
Sometimes, the sight of a police cruiser patrolling down the street is enough to deter criminals, but when it's not, the Town and Country Police Department has some high tech tools at its disposal.
One of the cars in the police department's fleet is outfitted with the License Plate Recognition System (L.P.R.S.) This system allows the police department drive through a parking lot and “scan” the license plates on the cars. The system searches for a variety of violations from expired registration to a vehicle that is wanted in connection with a crime.
“It saves the officer a lot of time,” said Captain Gary Hoelzer, the operations division commander of the Town and Country Police Department. Instead of officers entering each plate number into the computer, the L.P.R.S. handles it and checks it against a 'hot sheet' database for wanted vehicles, he said.
If the L.P.R.S. “hits” on a license plate, it alerts the officer who then checks the plate manually. Hoelzer said the manual check is necessary because the L.P.R.S. does not differentiate between different states, it merely recognizes numbers and letters.
The L.P.R.S. has already helped solve some crimes in Town and Country. The system also saves the license plates in its database for about 30 days.
“If we have a report of a car involved in a crime, we can look back through the system and see if that car was scanned and when and where it was scanned,” Hoelzer said.
The L.P.R.S. is not the only high tech tool at the disposal of the Town and Country Police Department. The department also uses a software program called Crime Matrix. The program is run by the Regional Justice Information System, the area's repository of criminal records and information.
The Crime Matrix essentially allows agencies and officers to connect the dots when investigating a crime. Capt. Hoelzer said that the system allowed Town and Country to solve a recent car jacking.
“We received information that the car had been found. Using Crime Matrix we discovered that another car, the same make and model, had been recovered right down the street from where our carjacked vehicle was found. Using the Crime Matrix we discovered that a person had been arrested for stealing the other car. We questioned him and charged him,” Hoelzer said.
Hoelzer said that other public notification systems are also in place in Town and Country, including one that alerts residents to be on the lookout. When a crime is reported, the department can send out an e-mail blast to the approximately 500 residents that have registered their e-mail address with the city. The e-mails can let the public know to be on the look out for a certain vehicle or person or simply inform them of what's happened.
The city also has the ability to send e-mails to businesses warning them of certain crimes or scams that might be targeting their type of business.
“Recently, we had a subject going into to church offices and asking for assistance. While the staff member was occupied or looking away, this person was taking computers.” Holelzer said “We sent out an e-mail to all the churches in the city warning them. We also input the information into the Crime Matrix and ended up recovering the computer and making an arrest.”
Video surveillance is also a major player in Town and Country crime fighting. Although the city does not monitor or install cameras at private residences, some home owners associations have installed their own systems at the entrance to the neighborhood.
“That way, if something happens, we look at the footage and see if any suspicious people or vehicles have come in our out,” Hoelzer said.
Hoelzer said that DNA evidence is also playing a bigger role in solving crimes.
"We have solved several crimes with it," Hoelzer said. “The Town and Country Police Department might not be the only department to use high tech tools to fight crime, but we try to get every advantage we can over the bad guys.”