Is your investigative arsenal incomplete?
What is LPR? Or is it ALPR? Or is it ANPR? I know what it is, I work for an LPR company for crying out loud. And, we have facial recognition as well, so I know a little bit about the technology, but I digress. Back to LPR; License Plate Recognition. What if I told you I was at the International Homicide Investigators Association (IHIA) National Symposium in Orlando last week and three registrants that stopped by our booth didn’t know what LPR was? Granted one was retired and his last patrol vehicle was a gelding, but the other two were active. And, they have the awesome responsibility of conducting death investigations, ultimately, homicide. With that, they may levy the charge of murder on someone someday, a responsibility not to be taken lightly.
In 2000, I attended the NYPD homicide course and had the privilege of meeting and listening to Vernon Geberth of Practical Homicide Investigation. Commander Geberth requires all class attendees take an oath, part of which reads, “Practitioners must be prepared to use tactics, procedures, and forensic techniques in their pursuit of the truth: and then follow the course of events and the facts as they are developed to their ultimate conclusion.” As they should. And all of his attendees should adhere to that oath.
So, what is my takeaway and what does this have to do with LPR? There are detectives, investigators, and analysts that are not up on the latest and greatest best practices and tools to assist the criminal investigative process. I can make that leap of faith without a net. This was not the first time, I heard something like this. LPR is but one of many technologies and tools that they absolutely should know about. For example, how many detectives know what DNA actually stands for? And what is a loci? I fear how many may respond to these questions, knowing that too many won’t know what these terms mean. And that’s disappointing.
So, who’s responsible for ensuring that detectives have the best tools and technologies available in their toolbelts? The detective? Check! The Squad Commander? Check! The agency they work for? Check? All of the above. Check! Check! Check!
As an active member of the IHIA Advisory Board, I met with incoming President Paul Belli and first Vice President Greg Esteban this past week. They are committed to providing their membership with the best training possible at their national symposiums and regional training sessions. Who’s taking advantage of that? 317 people, that’s who! But, that’s not enough, there should be a line at the front door with a sentinel beating them back with a stick.
And as I advocate for you to dig in to understand the tools available to advance your investigations, I’ll answer that question about LPR and explain why it is among the tools every homicide investigator needs in their investigative arsenal. While those in the know, or who think they are in the know, may see LPR as a great tool to find stolen vehicles, LPR’s true power comes when it is coupled with analytics for investigations.
Think about this: a high amount of crimes involve a vehicle in some capacity – either the vehicle was used in committing the crime, was driven to and from the crime scene, or perhaps a witness was in a nearby vehicle. Here’s what that means for you, if you can locate a vehicle of interest, you are likely on your way to developing leads and solving crimes. LPR and analytics help you locate that vehicle and complete the investigative triangle of person, location, and vehicle. Find the vehicle, and you can use your resources to connect that vehicle to a person or even a location such as crime scene. And with Vigilant you get the added benefit of billions of nationwide historical commercial LPR detections that make finding that vehicle even more likely.
So, detectives, please ask the boss to nurture your growth as an investigator, push your agency to get you trained, more and more (and pay for it). And, scream as loud as you can for the technology you need. You should not be afraid to rock that boat. In fact, it’s your obligation.