Hi-tech help: New technology is helping police catch crooks

(WSVN) - One South Florida police department is using some new tools to help catch criminals.

After 13 years in law enforcement, Hollywood Police officer Christian Lata has seen a lot of changes. He says, for starters, crooks are getting smarter.

Christian Lata, Hollywood Police: “Criminals, unfortunately, are getting more sophisticated everyday, so we don’t want to fall behind. So, we’re getting sophisticated too.”

Officers can now keep track of who is in their city at all times thanks to new license plate readers. They have been installed across the city and on some patrol cars.

Christian Lata: “If the vehicle is registered to you and you’re a wanted person and our license plate reader hits on your license, it will advise the officers that you are there.”

7News got a first hand look at the new police tool.

Christian Lata: “It can be set up so minimal that it just gets a hit for someone not paying a traffic ticket. Or it can be set at a higher level where it doesn’t set off unless you’re in a stolen vehicle or wanted person.”

Once a license plate is flagged, officers are alerted.

Christian Lata: “These machines are constantly running thousands of license plates throughout our city at all times.”

In August, a license plate reader helped nab a suspect wanted for a double murder in Alabama. He was riding in a stolen car that the reader flagged.

Christian Lata: “If not for the license plate detectors that suspect would probably have driven right through our city without being detected.”

But the license plate readers aren’t just used for major crimes.

Hollywood resident Harold Davis said the technology helped his friend when he was targeted by crooks.

Harold Davis, resident: “One of my best friends had his car stolen but luckily he got it back because they had some kind of electronically thing that could check the name plate.”

Davis’ friend got his car back within a matter of days. And it’s not just the license readers that are being used to nab criminals. Hollywood Police have installed 22 new cameras in the city.

The camera footage can be seen here at the fusion center where officers watch what is going on in the city. If a car is stolen here on the beach, they can follow it in real-time through the city and radio the location to officers on the street.

Christian Lata: “It’s not only a reactive approach, it’s also a proactive approach.”

Hollywood Police say car burglaries are down 77 percent in the city because thieves know the cameras are watching them.

Harold Davis: “Anything they can do to help keep us all safe is a good idea.”

And for residents, this hi-tech help to keep them safe is welcome in their neighborhood.

Hollywood Police said they plan to install even more cameras across the city in the coming months.

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