License plate reader helps catch Va. shooter

Readers also used by Jacksonville Parking Enforcement

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After the tragedy in Virginia, troopers were able to find Vester Lee Flanagan when his rental car's license plate number was picked up by a license plate reader and News4Jax learned readers like it are being used in Jacksonville by Parking Enforcement.

Public parking enforcement officer Jack Shad said their cameras are expensive, at $18,000 each but they are very beneficial. It doesn't look like any of these license plate readers have made it to surrounding counties, but that could change.

"It is a remarkable technology and the price has gone down and the reliability has gone up. I'm not a police officer and I'm not sure how they would use it, but we do find it helpful when it comes to collecting on unpaid parking tickets," Shad said.

Parking Enforcement uses two cameras to help its officers track down citizens who have outstanding parking tickets. The cameras are mounted to the sides of the cars to scan the license plate to see if they have paid parking fees. The department told News4Jax that it has been in discussions with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office about them and if the police ever needed to use them, the city would fully cooperate.

News4Jax spoke to several other local jurisdictions to find out if they've used the readers.

  • The Florida Highway Patrol said it tested the equipment about two or three years ago, but has not implemented them.
  • The St. Johns County Sheriff's Office doesn't have the cameras but said it is looking into them.
  • And about a month ago the Nassau County Sheriff's Office received a reader from the Florida Department of Transportation. They used it on one of their unmarked cars and right now they are trying to decide if the systems would be useful in the county.

The cameras don't have to be only used on vehicles; they can also be mounted onto overpasses and road signs. The high-speed cameras can actually take pictures of thousands of license plates per minute. 

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