Driving suspended just got harder as OPP add more licence plate cameras

Drivers with suspended licences, sticky fingers, or expired tags have a greater chance of getting busted by provincial police.

They’ve acquired 27 more cruisers — costing $500,000 — equipped with Automatic Licence Plate Recognition, targeting suspended motorists.

A camera mounted in a police cruiser reads licence plates, querying them against a “hotlist” of plates in poor standing, supplied by the transportation ministry.

With 250,000 Highway Traffic Act licence suspensions issued annually, police are hoping to give headaches to sneaky motorists.

An officer en route to a Toronto press conference Wednesday did, stopping to deal with six suspended drivers, said OPP project manager Harry Alkema.

Two units are currently on the road in Eastern Ontario.

“They were on the pilot (program) and four additional units will be deployed,” said Alkema.

In rush hour, the system is capable of scanning 3,600 plates per hour, although they won’t be any easier to spot.

Vehicles are fully marked, black and white Crown Victorias, he said, noting new cruisers are being deployed this month, wrapping in January.

Eight of the 27 cruisers will be used in the Greater Toronto Area, while the rest will be distributed provincially, moving between detachments.

The purchase brings their fleet to 31.

When a “hit” comes up for a suspended driver with a Criminal Code conviction, the vehicle will immediately get towed to an impound facility for at least 45 days.

If the suspension is for an HTA offence, the vehicle is impounded for seven days.

Officers using these vehicles don’t have to manually enter plate numbers when looking for suspensions.

“It’s hard to read plates while we’re moving,” said a police source who was happy to hear the news.

But the technology doesn’t come without controversy, namely surrounding privacy concerns.

Police don’t have access to any non-hit data, said Alkema, and information is deleted from laptops at the end of each shift,

The project is about road safety, “not about anything else,” said Alkema, pointing out cops have been “very forward with the privacy commissioner.”

City cops conducted a 60-day pilot project using the technology a year ago but “as far as I’m aware, it’s not on our radar at the moment,” said Ottawa Police Sgt. Mark Gatien from the traffic escort unit.

“There’s a ton of suspended drivers out there,” Gatien continued, adding he deals with four to five weekly.

What do they say?

“Not much. You can’t talk your way out of it,” he said.

An estimated 2.3% of fatal crashes are attributed to suspended drivers, according to OPP.

kelly.roche@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @kellyroche6

http://www.ottawasun.com/2013/12/12/driving-suspended-just-got-harder-as-opp-add-more-licence-plate-cameras

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