MIPD purchasing automatic license plate readers

The city council recently approved funding for equipment; systems will be installed in three vehicles.

The Mercer Island Police Department (MIPD) is purchasing new automated license plate readers.

At its July 21 meeting, the city council approved funding for Automatic License Plate Reader (ALPR) program equipment to be used in three MIPD cars. The total cost of the equipment across the three vehicles will be $86,907. It covers hardware, software and installation.

ALPR equipment is used by police departments nationwide to streamline the data-entry process while an officer is on patrol.

Per a city release, the cameras used by the ALPR program automatically alerts an officer when a suspect vehicle’s plate is located by its internal system. The system cross-checks a plate against state and federal databases identifying wanted people, stolen vehicles and missing and endangered people.

“Officers visually verify the information identified by the system and take the necessary action to further investigate,” the release adds. “The system also interfaces with ‘Pay by Phone’ parking programs, allowing officers to more easily enforce paid parking restrictions.”

After reaching out to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), it was determined that privacy and data-retention concerns around the equipment were mostly addressed by the way the city “limits the reasons the system will alert officers and limits the data retention to a maximum of 14 days.”

According to the city press release, funding for the equipment will be provided by federal seizure funds and city technology funds from budgeted projects that weren’t completed in 2020.