IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Missouri Law Enforcement Eyes License Plate Readers

The Buchanan County Sheriff's Office and Drug Strike Force are pursuing grant money for automated license plate readers. Officials say the technology helps to bridge resource gaps.

(TNS) — The Buchanan County Sheriff's Office is turning to cameras to help solve crimes and bolster its resources.

The St. Joseph City Council unanimously approved the installation of license plate reading cameras for the police department last week. So far, the Buchanan County Sheriff's Office and Drug Strike Force have been awarded $35,000 each for their own cameras, but they are looking at a couple more grants to allow them to purchase up to 24.

Drug Strike Force Capt. Shawn Collie said the technology can help solve crimes without pulling deputies from their patrol areas. Information from a stolen vehicle is put into a system to allow license readers to identify it.

"What this may help us do is if a vehicle is stolen in St. Joe and driven to Kansas City, if it passes through license plate readers, officers on the highways are going to be notified almost up to date about that vehicle," he said. "And we can actually try to recover the vehicle before it gets to Kansas City or gets to another jurisdiction."

Collie said he would like to meet with the St. Joseph Police Department, Missouri State Highway Patrol and possibly surrounding jurisdictions to decide the location of the cameras.

"It's going to be determined based on how we feel people involved in criminal activity are utilizing the streets and highways to come and go from our area," he said.

There were critics at recent St. Joseph City Council meetings who shared concerns about data being collected from drivers, but Collie said the technology doesn't target law-abiding citizens.

"If we decide that Belt and Frederick or, you know, that Belt and Mitchell is a place for cameras, this isn't about sitting and just watching to see who drives through every day," he said. "This is about criminal activity and using it to identify people involved in criminal activity and to get them in front of the justice system."

The Buchanan County Drug Strike Force hopes to have the cameras by the end of the calendar year, but, likely, they won't be out until the beginning of 2024. Collie said they can't come soon enough since he expects a rise in crime as the holidays approach.

"The quicker the better for us because, especially as we're going into the holiday times, we start seeing more and more theft," he said. "We start seeing different violent crimes, but we also see, you know, residential burglaries or other crimes that may be people coming from other areas into the Buchanan County and St. Joe area."

©2023 the St. Joseph News-Press, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.