Novato police officers stumbled across evidence in two stolen vehicle cases late Friday morning with the aid of an Automated License Plate Reader, a relatively recent addition to the department. Sergeant Nicholas Frey detailed the incident in a Novato Police Department press release.
Officer Melissa Hinkle was on a routine patrol along Grant Avenue in a vehicle equipped with an ALPR device at 11:48 a.m. when the camera spotted a license plate associated with a stolen vehicle. A 2007 Range Rover parked at 1769 Grant Avenue was found to be carrying the license plate of a 2004 Toyota stolen from Oakland. A subsequent check of the Range Rover’s vehicle identification number found that it had also been stolen from San Francisco. The theft of the Range Rover took place this March, according to NPD Lieutenant John McCarthy.
Officers found William Millan, a 31-year-old Novato resident, nearby and established that he had been driving the Range Rover. Officers arrested Millan on and booked him into Marin County Jail on possession of a stolen vehicle.
McCarthy explained that “the case is still open,” but that officers have yet to determine whether there will be additional arrests in relation to the thefts of the two vehicles.
ALPRs include mounted cameras that scan license plates as patrol officers drive by. The plates are digitally checked against a database of cars that have been stolen or are associated with other crimes, and the console inside the patrol car alerts officers when a match is detected. NPD has employed these devices on a number of patrol cars since August 2012.
Though the department has not compiled statistics regarding the effectiveness of ALPRs, McCarthy said, “They’ve helped locating vehicles that would not raise our suspicions otherwise.”