News13 Special Report: License Plate Readers in Myrtle Beach

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Earlier this year, the Myrtle Beach Police Department asked Myrtle Beach City Council for funds to buy stationary license plate readers. At the end of May, sixteen readers were placed in six locations throughout the city and cost the city around $227,000.

Myrtle Beach Police Lieutenant, Joey Crosby, said the readers allow the department to understand what is coming into the city and what illegal activity could be leaving the city .

“It enhances our technology capabilities and gives us an extra set of eyes,” said Lt. Crosby.

If you drive by a reader, it gathers information like your tag number, the date and time you passed the reader and the GPS location of that reader. If your car is associated with a crime, an automatic alert is sent to the Myrtle Beach Police Department dispatch center. Alerts are sent for several offenses including expired tags, stolen vehicles and vehicles associated with robberies and even murders.

“We’re working our routine patrols trying to be a deterrent and be visible,” said Lt. Crosby. “But also, this capability allows us to know what’s coming into our city beforehand. Or if we have a crime that’s being committed, if we’re attempting to look for the suspect and the suspect leaves our area, we’re able to identify the surrounding agencies and hope they will help us apprehend that person.”

In the past four months, the department has received over 14,000 alerts. Here’s the breakdown:

June: 1,424,861 license plates scanned, 3,469 alerts

July: 1,426,433 license plates scanned, 3,672 alerts

August: 1,258,587 license plates scanned, 3,299 alerts

September: 1,284,970 license plates scanned, 3,913 alerts

Lt. Crosby said while these stationary license plate readers are new, the technology is not.

“Previously we had what we call mobile license plate readers in which we utilized and we found those to be very successful,” said Lt. Crosby. However, those mobile readers were attached to patrol cars and could only read license plates near that particular car.

Lt. Crosby said no outside companies have access to the information gathered by the license plate readers.

“The information is housed on a secure server at the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division,” added Lt. Crosby. “Much like your vehicle tag information and your license plate information and your registration information is housed on a secure server, this is also housed there as well.”

Lt. Crosby said the license plate readers have been effective and are making Myrtle Beach safer.

“If somebody is wanted for murder or they’re wanted for an armed robbery and they’re coming to our city and they cross across an LPR reader, then we are identified that this vehicle is wanted in connection with that violence crime,” he added.

The Myrtle Beach Police Department is currently working on a “Phase 2” project for more license plate readers. The department is looking to add another fifteen or sixteen license plate readers in another six locations throughout the city.

The department did not want to release every intersection where the readers are located so criminals would not try to avoid them.