Automated Licence Plate Recognition (ALPR) Prolific Prohibited Driver Program in BC

Author(s): Aroutiounian

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Background/Context: The deployment of Automated Licence Plate Recognition (ALPR) technology in police vehicles for traffic enforcement has been in use in BC since 2006. ALPR helps make BC roads safer by rapidly identifying licence plates associated with stolen vehicles, prohibited and suspended drivers, unlicensed drivers, uninsured vehicles, stolen vehicles and vehicles linked to persons subject to a Criminal Code of Canada arrest warrant.

ALPR consists of cameras mounted in or on police vehicles to capture images of vehicle licence plates and instantly check the licence plates against a secure police database. When a scanned licence plate matches a licence plate in the police database, the system issues an alarm indicating a hit; this confirms that the licence plate is associated with someone wanted by police, suspended/prohibited from driving, driving without insurance, and/or driving without a licence. When the hit is confirmed the officer will respond, if appropriate to do so.

It has been well established in overall literature that prohibited drivers are over-represented in motor vehicle collisions. There are over 2,500 prohibited drivers in the Greater Vancouver area and many of them have multiple negative contacts with police beyond traffic offences. Criminals will continue to drive regardless if they are prohibited. In 2016, RCMP  Division Traffic Services conducted a specialized nine-week Prolific Prohibited Driver Pilot Project. The objective of the project was to use ALPR to target prohibited and high risk drivers and remove them from the roadways, making the communities and roads safer.

Following a promising pilot, this project continued to grow in 2017 and the Prohibited Driver Enforcement Team is now in operation full-time with six police officers. The program is conducted in partnership with RCMP  Division Lower Mainland (LMD) municipal traffic detachments and the LMD Integrated Road Safety Unit, along with the Air One Traffic Safety Helicopter, the BC Civil Forfeiture Office, local probation offices, as well as municipal police departments.

Air One assists with vehicle surveillance and recording video of offences. The local probation offices assist with monitoring high-risk drivers on court-ordered conditions. The BC Civil Forfeiture Office seizes offence-related property such as vehicles and/or cash. RCMP municipal traffic detachments and municipal police departments assist with identifying high-risk prohibited drivers within their jurisdiction that pose a risk to public safety, providing real-time targets to the team.

Aims/Objectives: The ongoing deployment of Prohibited Driver Enforcement Team to target high risk offending drivers reduces auto theft and motor vehicle violations in particular those related to prohibited, suspended, unlicensed and uninsured drivers; and assists in the recovery of stolen vehicles, property and related criminality. The program improves roadside efficiency, as well as public and officer safety in removing unlawful drivers from BC roads.

Methods/Targets: Prohibited Drivers that are also prolific offenders i.e. persons who have multiple negative contacts with police.

Results/Activities: In contrast to regular ALPR deployment, a shifting model was developed by the Prohibited Driver Enforcement Team to more effectively target prohibited drivers. Police analysts provide the team with a list of subjects, including addresses and associated vehicles. After prioritizing the subjects, a six-person team of police officers would be deployed in unmarked unconventional police vehicles equipped with ALPR.

As an example of a typical deployment, the team set up surveillance on a residence identified through the shifting model. The subject had 55 police-related files, including three recent prohibited charges. A vehicle in the driveway is identified as registered to the subject. The subject was observed exiting the residence, getting into his vehicle and driving off. A vehicle stop was initiated by the team. During the course of the investigation, $25,000 in cash, a plane ticket to Mexico and other goods were located in the vehicle. The cash was ion scanned and tested positive for cocaine, meth and THC. The subject was held in custody and the cash seized.

Discussion/Deliverables: In the course of 11 months of full-time team deployment in 2017 (February to December), there were:
* 476,529 plates read
* 200 arrests conducted, of which 151 were prohibited drivers
* 137 charges under the Criminal Code and 202 charges under the Motor Vehicle Act
* 48 arrest warrants executed
* 4 search warrants drafted and executed
* 634 violation tickets issued
* 168 driving prohibition notices served
* 22 stolen vehicles recovered
* 35 stolen licence plates recovered

Ongoing ALPR data analysis demonstrates that ALPR is valuable technology, assisting police in removing suspended, prohibited and other unlawful drivers from our roadways. It supports both the increased likelihood and the perceived likelihood of a driver being caught by the police for driving while suspended or prohibited, and may contribute to reducing such behaviours in future.