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New license plate readers help fight crime in Lathrop

Getting notified any time a stolen vehicle or wanted person pulls into town is a blessing for Lathrop Police Chief Ryan Biedermann.

The real benefit, however, extends far beyond just the basic features of the City of Lathrop’s new license plate reading cameras.

In Biedermann’s opinion – it’s all about the evidence.

With the state-of-the-art system now up and running, Lathrop Police Services has had great success generating investigative leads from the cameras when digging into cases that would otherwise be hard to solve. From convenience store robberies to more complex cases, the system – and the database it provides access to – has been a treasure trove of information that Biedermann said has helped detectives find leads that otherwise be difficult to track down.

“When we have a stolen car that comes into town and get the notification – that’s the easy part,” Biedermann said. “We have a lot of convenience stores along the frontage road that are right by the freeway and when somebody commits a robbery and then gets on the freeway – they’re gone.

“And since it’s hard sometimes to get a license plate – we get a lot of partials – we’re now able to go back and look at the cameras when we have a vehicle description and find the license plate which makes it easy to start with where the vehicle was registered and go from there.”

Lathrop currently has license plate reading cameras installed at the heavy-volume intersections of Golden Valley and River Islands Parkways, Harlan Road and Louise Avenue, Harlan and Lathrop Roads, Lathrop Road and 5th Street, and McKinley Avenue and Lathrop Road – covering all of the major intersections in town where large numbers of cars pass through daily.

According to Beidermann, having that kind of coverage has been instrumental in solving cases because it allows investigators to pinpoint specific vehicle models when they are provided and scan through all of the logs for a given intersection at a specific time and narrow down and identify the license plate of a vehicle – which can sometimes be the wall between a case that gets solved and one that doesn’t.

“We’ve solved so many crimes that we wouldn’t have otherwise,” Biedermann said. “Before it would take a long time to try and track down a license plate number but because of the ease of the system we have now, we’re able to get that sooner and move through the process much quicker.

“Our detectives have a very good success rate with using it.”

As part of the city’s plans for the new police department that is currently under construction in River Islands, an entire wall of monitors will be available for deputies and staff to view from inside of the office itself – giving real-time monitoring which can be pivotal when seconds matter.

The city also has a portable trailer with license plate reading capabilities that can be set up in strategic locations where a permanent camera is not mounted – expanding the range of the system to anywhere in the city.

“The clarity on these cameras is so amazing,” Biedermann said. “And when you talk about the system, when we find a plate, we can find anywhere else in the State of California that it hits – which widens the net for us significantly. It’s a great tool to have.”

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.