SGI has provided law enforcement with money so they can install Automated Licence Plate Readers (ALPRs) in their patrol vehicles as part of our commitment to traffic safety. The following are some common questions and answers to help you better understand ALPRs.
Questions and Answers
What is an automated licence plate reader (ALPR) system? How does it work?
The ALPR system includes a computer installed in the interior of the patrol vehicle in the officer's view, as well as strategically placed and adjustable cameras on the vehicle's exterior. As the officer drives around, the equipment automatically reads licence plates, runs them through SGI registered owner information and Canadian Police Information Centre databases, and identifies any that are of police interest.
What kind of licence plates would be of police interest?
Plates that trigger an alert include unregistered or expired plates, those on stolen vehicles, amber alerts or where the driver has been suspended or is wanted for another matter.
How many ALPR devices are there in the province, and where are they located?
There are currently 48 police vehicles across the province equipped with automated licence plate readers funded by SGI. All patrol vehicles in the Combined Traffic Services Saskatchewan (CTSS) pilot are equipped with ALPRs. In addition, the municipal police services in Saskatoon, Regina, Moose Jaw, Estevan, Weyburn, North Battleford and Prince Albert also have some vehicles equipped with ALPR systems.
Police agencies also purchase this equipment for their vehicles so there could be others in use as well (not funded by SGI).
How much has SGI invested in this technology?
To date, SGI has invested about $1.3 million in this technology. This covers the cost of the ALPR device itself (about $20,000 each), as well as installation, maintenance and any necessary repairs.
What happens when a licence plate is scanned by an ALPR?
If there is something in the system about the plates (e.g., they are unregistered, expired, the plate is related to a driver that has been suspended, the vehicle was stolen or the plate is related to a driver who is a wanted person), the officer is alerted on the computer screen and by a sound the system makes. The officer can then review the relevant information and choose how to respond. If the vehicle plates are of no interest, the plate information is immediately cleared from the screen.
How much information is provided when the plates are scanned?
Only very basic information is provided with the scan, in order to respect privacy rights. The plate information is immediately cleared from the screen if the plate is of no interest to law enforcement.
Can you tell if a vehicle is equipped with the ALPR system?
The ALPR system equipment is strategically and inconspicuously placed on the vehicle, making it difficult for the public to tell if the vehicle is equipped with the technology.
Why did SGI provide law enforcement with funding for the ALPR equipment?
Traffic safety is an important component of SGI's commitment in making our communities safer. By funding the ALPR equipment, SGI is giving Saskatchewan law enforcement a tool to help keep Saskatchewan roads safe by identifying drivers that may be high risk.
The device also enables officers to scan a large number of vehicles without having to type the numbers in themselves, making them much more productive, efficient and giving them more time to focus on the other aspects of patrol. The White Butte RCMP detachment and members of CTSS have said they've gone from manually checking 10 plates every 15 minutes to checking 10 plates in 10 seconds with ALPRs.
Will SGI be purchasing more of these cameras for Saskatchewan law enforcement?
SGI is committed to getting tough on impaired drivers, and ALPRs provide a tool to provincial enforcement so they can identify uninsured vehicles and suspended drivers. SGI plans to fund the purchase of more licence plate readers over the next couple of years.
Are false positives an issue with these devices?
SGI uploads data every day for police services to access. Since it is not updated in real-time, there can be errors.
Do police have a guidebook to follow with regards to these devices?
SGI provides funding for the devices and leaves their operation up to police.
How often is data cleared from the system, when it's a miss and of no interest to police?
It is SGI's understanding that the data is cleared from the system at the end of each day.
What would SGI like to tell people that may be concerned about privacy?
Customer privacy is extremely important to SGI. SGI has contracts in place with law enforcement with regards to the customer information they can access, and that information is treated with the utmost care.