New traffic device tracks vehicle license plates

By Joshua Baethge
For the Anna-Melissa Tribune
License plate readers alert police to potentially dangerous individuals driving in the area.

A recently installed device along the Collin County Loop just east of US 75 has piqued the curiosity of many Anna Residents.  Is it a traffic counter, or some kind of high-tech data detection device? 

It turns out that piece of equipment is actually a temporary license plate reader, or LPR as they are known to public safety officials. These devices automatically run license plates through a state database. That database contains records of things like registered sex offenders, wanted persons, stolen vehicles, known gang members and suspected terrorists.   

If a plate matches something in the database, an alert is sent to an on-duty Anna Police officer. Once the plate identification is confirmed by an officer, police can then initiate a traffic stop to investigate further.  

Anna Police Chief Dean Habel is quick to point out that LPRs are not used for routine traffic enforcement. 

“Officers do not receive alerts on minor violations like expired registrations,” he said. “Anna PD has a policy in place that strictly governs how the information may be used.” 

License plate readers alert police to potentially dangerous individuals driving in the area.

They have become valuable is as an investigative tool. If a crime is committed in Anna, there is a chance that a suspect’s license plate may have been captured on one of the LPRs.  If it was, police may have a better idea of the suspect’s location 

LPRs have become a common tool for police across the region.  

In fact, some North Texas municipalities have them at every main thoroughfare entering or exiting the city. They are also posted at fixed locations, mounted on police vehicles, and even mounted two trucks.  

Anna began using LPRs in late May.  

Other locations with temporary ones include the Walmart shopping center entrance and exit, the 100 block of South Powell Parkway and the 100 block of South Rosamond Parkway.  The city has requested approval from the Texas Department of Transportation to install permanent LPR at all five locations.