How video and license plate readers improve police investigations

By Sergeant Dalton Webb

How do we stop violent crime through technology? I talk about this frequently but sometimes real-world situations tell a better story. Approaching this problem from a technology-driven standpoint, here is a great deployment strategy.

Boxing the location

The video above is from my prior life with the Fort Worth Real Time Crime Center. This is a known high-crime location backed up by proven data, where open-air drug dealing, loitering, shootings and other types of offenses occur.

When you have a single high-crime location, one of the best strategies that can be utilized is what is called “boxing the location” with layered tech. You deploy 1-2 live-viewed cameras such as the one we are watching. Additionally, fixed license plate reading cameras that face inward toward the location are also deployed so that every plate that passes the location is recorded. If a drive-by shooting occurs, not only will you have the video evidence down to the second, but you will be able to match the footage up with the suspect vehicle and have an immediately actionable lead.

Breaking down the video

Now let’s break down the video. Here we have a proactive individual in the real-time crime center actively monitoring the location for criminal activity. At the 23:16:14 mark, shots are fired at the location. Three seconds later, the RTCC operator immediately begins hunting for the suspect.

The RTCC operator never got tunnel vision, and instead began to focus on the individual returning fire at the 23:16:22 mark. The operator successfully got the license plate and direction of travel for the second suspect. As the operator calls in all the information, they continue to actively monitor the scene for additional video evidence.

The next step in this process would be to immediately enter the license plate of both suspect vehicles into the ALPR hot list. If there are enough of them layered in the area, chances are high that the real-time location of one or both vehicles can be obtained.

Without the technology in place, the likely scenario is that officers would have received a “shots fired” call, arrived 5 minutes later, found nothing, and then left the location without a report being generated.

Instead, there is now an actionable lead on two vehicles tied to violent crime. These kinds of tactics apply to all manner of crimes and are scalable to a single location all the way up to an entire city.

Thanks to the Fort Worth Police Department for the use of the video via open records.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES on TECHNOLOGY-DRIVEN POLICING


About the author

Dalton Webb is a retired sergeant who spent 18 years with the Fort Worth Police Department in Fort Worth, TX. He spent his career in a variety of assignments and developed the FWPD Real-Time Crime Center as an officer in 2012. Dalton retired as the supervisor over the RTCC in addition to being a Deputy Director over the FWPD Fusion Center. 

As a law enforcement instructor and speaker, Dalton has become one of the nation’s leaders on training and developing strategies on the concepts of integrating crime centers and technology into the daily mission of policing agencies. Under his leadership, the Fort Worth Real-Time Crime Center became a national model for technology-driven policing. Dalton helped found the National Real-Time Crime Center Association and was the first Vice President of Training and Development. 

He is currently the Director of RTCC Strategy for Flock Safety and frequently assists agencies with RTCC development and training. Connect with and follow Dalton on LinkedIn.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *