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The Rapid Diffusion of License Plate Readers in US Law Enforcement Agencies

NCJ Number
Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management Volume: 42 Issue: 3 Dated: 2019 Pages: 376-393
Date Published
18 pages
This study documented the diffusion of license plate readers (LPRs) in U.S. law enforcement agencies, examining the variety, evolution, and tracking of their uses through a national survey.

Data were collected through a national, stratified, representative survey of U.S. law enforcement agencies with 100 or more officers. Survey findings indicate that LPR technology is currently used by at least two-thirds of larger police agencies, which represents a more than threefold increase in LPR acquisition in the last 10 years. The number of LPRs per agency, while small (about eight on average), has also more than doubled. Federal and state funding, advocacy by law enforcement leaders, and the intuitive appeal of LPRs have likely contributed to this rapid adoption. Although LPRs are still primarily used to detect and recover stolen automobiles in patrol, their use has expanded into other types of investigative and security functions. Despite the increased use and numbers of LPRs in policing, their use is highly discretionary and infrequently tracked. Thus, LPRs continue to be widely used in law enforcement, despite a lack of strong research evidence for their crime prevention benefits. Further studies are needed on the most effective ways for agencies to utilize small numbers of LPRs and the potential return on investment for acquiring larger numbers of the devices. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2019