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North Bay police describe new plate readers as a 'game changer' in catching traffic offenders

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North Bay police now have an extra helping hand in their patrol vehicles with a new Automatic Licence Plate Reader systems or ALPR for short.

Hooked to the windshield of the car, while on patrol, making for a new set of eyes on the hunt for traffic violators and suspended drivers.

11 North Bay Police Service vehicles have Automated License Plate Recognition systems installed. May 21, 2024. (Eric Taschner/CTV News Northern Ontario)

“This really is a game changer in policing,” said Insp. Jeff Warner.

“In my 27-year career, I have never seen anything that makes such a difference in our officers being able to enforce the legislation.”

$174,000 in provincial money was granted to the North Bay Police Service in November 2022 to launch a brand new license plate recognition system.

“Our government is committed to protecting our community,” said Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli at the time.

“This technology provides the tools necessary for law enforcement to be more efficient in their policing.”

How it works is the cameras and their supporting software capture the plate and immediately compare its information to extensive Ontario Provincial Police and Ministry of Transportation databases which tracks expired plates and suspended drivers.

“It can read license plates from three lanes over, or coming at you 140 km/h,” said Warner.

“You really have to see it to believe it.”

11 North Bay Police Service vehicles have Automated License Plate Recognition systems installed. May 21, 2024. (Eric Taschner/CTV News Northern Ontario)

11 NBPS vehicles are retrofitted with the new system.

Officers ran a three-month trial period from January - April before the full launch. During the trial, police busted 19 drivers for traffic violations and four for having a suspended license.

Since the full launch, police have laid eight charges under the Highway Traffic Act and caught 11 more suspended drivers.

“It's a great thing to be able to leverage technology and really automate some processes to help increase road safety and look for offenders,” said Deputy Police Chief Michael Daze.

The system can also be used to crack down on auto theft rings and assist with amber alerts or the hunt for wanted suspects when a vehicle is involved.

“Any service really that has this technology can enter license plates that are under active investigation,” Warner said.

“They can be entered into the hotlist and will trigger to an officer who comes across that vehicle.”

The ALPR technology does not detect moving violations such as speeding, going through a red light or stop sign or a distracted driver.

The provincial government eliminated all fees associated with the annual registration of licence plates in 2022. The cost to renew licence stickers for the year was previously $60 in northern Ontario and $120 in southern Ontario.

Then in February, Premier Doug Ford announced drivers in Ontario will soon be able to skip the annual registration of their licence plates as the province works to make this process automatic.

The MTO confirmed to CTV News that as of January 2024, there are 1,015,139 unregistered plates in Ontario.

The government states that the system supports Ontario’s move to eliminate licence plate renewal fees and stickers for passenger vehicles, light-duty trucks, motorcycles and mopeds by allowing licence plate information to be read automatically without requiring an officer to see a physical licence sticker to validate a vehicle. 

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