Law enforcement officials in Virginia say it “was instrumental” in their search for the gunman in the deaths of two TV staff members of WDBJ. The gunman, Vester Lee Flanagan, was tracked down after his rental car passed a Virginia Highway Patrol vehicle equipped with a license plate reader that alerted the officer behind the wheel. Sheriff Arthur Townsend, president of the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association, says “Flanagan’s capture demonstrates the critical role of license plate readers as necessary law enforcement tools during the course of investigations.”
With the devices in use to varying degrees in neighboring states, the North Carolina Highway Patrol currently uses just one mobile unit statewide. Lieutenant Jeff Gordon, with the North Carolina Highway Patrol in Raleigh, tells WataugaRoads.com that currently NCSHP has one vehicle equipped with a mobile License Plate Reader and four fixed sites that use them. Currently the mobile unit is a pilot program, it along with the fixed sites are only used on Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs).
Lt. Gordon explains that when a CMV plate is read, they alert against what is called the “CVIEW” Data Base. The “CVIEW” data base will identify unsafe carriers. In addition, it also checks registration files to see if there are any registration issues with the CMV.
The License Plate Readers were purchased with Federal Grant money for the purpose of detecting unsafe CMV’s and are used consistent with the rules of the funding source. Gordon emphasizes that the readers are NOT used on passenger vehicles.
Meanwhile in the High Country, the devices are not yet in use with Boone Police or the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office. One of the biggest reasons, if not the biggest reason, the county cars are not equipped with them is the fact that they need a constant good line of sight to be useful all the time. With most of the county roads long range sight lines obstructed by curves and/or trees, the readers just aren’t practical says Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman. He adds the readers need a more urban type setting to be useful at a higher rate.
The fixed sites in use by NCSHP are located at the Mt. Airy Weigh Station on I-77 South, Mooresville Virtual Weigh Station on I-77 North, US 421 North in Wilmington at a Virtual Weigh Station, and currently there is one under construction on I-73/74 North in Montgomery County.
The mobile units cost approximately $18,000 according to Lt. Gordon.