WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Wichita police have seen an increase in crimes across the city, but there’s new hope in curbing that statistic. License plate readers at some intersections are here to stay after the Wichita City Council approved a one-year contract.
Wichita police said it is a big step to help combat the increase in several types of crime.
“This is one of the most significant, in my opinion, impacts on crime we could possibly see,” said Lieutenant Casey Slaughter.
Lieutenant Casey Slaughter said the numbers are showing success. He said during the four-month trial period, these license plate readers have been utilized to help make 156 arrests. A majority of those arrests were on felony cases.
The technology has been used to seize drugs and 23 guns and helped to recover 152 stolen cars. It has also changed the average amount of time it takes to investigate these types of crimes, cutting the recovery time from an average of 15 days to 10.
“I want to recover somebody’s stolen car. I want to catch that homicide suspect I want to get justice for a family who has a child that was a victim of human trafficking or sex abuse crime,” said Slaughter.
The response has been positive about the numbers, but there are still some concerns from citizens about privacy.
Slaughter said it is not something people should worry about. He said all of the videos from these readers are deleted within 30 days. The department can only access the data if it is related to a case that has been filed. Also, each person using the program has to go through Slaughter before getting more information and have to be trained to use the program.
Slaughter said it is a secure system and no audio is pulled from these.
He said this can be a limitation, because it takes time to teach people about how this works. There are other limitations the department has to overcome.
As the program costs $275,000 a year, this comes out of the city’s pocket. The department could also use more resources to respond to alerts.
Mayor Brandon Whipple said it is something they will work on over the next year but said it is worth the cost to fight crime in the city.
“This tool is going to save lives, it’s going to reunite folks with their stolen property, and it’s going to come at savings to the city,” said Whipple. “This type of software was able to locate that one-year-old child before that child walked up in harm’s way so it’s definitely saving us money, and it’s saving us lives.”
Slaughter said if the success continues this could help other departments in Kansas respond to crimes.
“Those people deserve our attention, and they deserve to have justice done,” he said.
The next step is meeting with homeowner associations to see if there is an interest in putting readers throughout neighborhoods. Slaughter said the neighborhood would have access but could alert police when something looks suspicious.