License to be proactive: How Ogden, Utah is using license plate recognition technology to fight crime

Article
June 30, 2021
Ogden, Utah, a transportation hub for tourists and outdoor enthusiasts, is using the latest in surveillance technology to keep its community safe.

Just 10 miles east of Great Salt Lake and 40 miles north of Salt Lake City lies the city of Ogden, Utah—best known for its proximity to popular mountain ski resorts and for its rich history as a frontier land. Ogden became known as “Junction City” in the early 1900’s for its busy Union Station, which was a stop for more than 100 Transcontinental Railroad trains a day.  Despite challenging economic times in the proceeding years, downtown Ogden has been restored to its glory with new businesses, housing, and public gathering places.

Today, Ogden, Utah has kept true to its history as a transportation hub for tourists and outdoor enthusiasts. With ever increasing activity, city officials are keen to use the latest in surveillance and investigative technology to keep its business, residents, and visitors safe.  

The decision to advance

In 2009, the Ogden City Police Department invested in real-time crime scene software, including Axis Communications’ multi-sensor cameras to deter crime in the area of its historic 25th Street. During the ensuing years, the police department became aware of significant advancements in camera technology.  In a bid to better protect the city and become more proactive in their crime fighting efforts, they sought to test the use of cameras that could capture license plate details from vehicles entering and leaving the vicinity.

The mission was to search for a solution that would accurately capture license plate details to cross-reference with white and blacklists of known offenders through real-time alerts.  This led to a pilot program using Rekors Systems’ License Plate Recognition (LPR) software on the AXIS Q1700-LE License Plate Camera. Three LPR cameras were installed on both sides of 25th street by Digital Systems Installation (DSI) to ensure that license plate information was easily read, even in challenging environments such as heavy traffic and low light.  AXIS Camera Station was also deployed, providing video and access management to protect the privacy of the new surveillance.

David Weloth, Director of the Real Time Crime Center (RTCC), Ogden, UT
David Weloth, Director of the Real Time Crime Center (RTCC), Ogden, UT

“The Ogden Police Department is at the leading edge with respect to innovation and technology in policing,” says David Weloth, Director of the Real Time Crime Center (RTCC), the city’s tactical analysis center. “We recognize the value of LPR systems and were thrilled at the opportunity to participate in this study.”

A seamless transition

The pilot program was complete by the end of 2020 and produced impressive results.  More than 50,000 plates were read on a weekly basis enabling law enforcement to identify both the driver and the vehicle and track down suspects in neighboring jurisdictions. 

An important feature of the system included real-time alerts, which notified police of reported activity including amber alerts, stolen cars, wanted persons, and hit-and-runs.  Take, for example, a hit-and-run, which without video makes for a difficult case to solve.  Ogden police were able to check LPR surveillance running near the scene, and analysts at the RTCC were able to assist in locating specific details on the vehicle. 

The footage collected by the cameras allowed law enforcement to cross-reference LPR data with 25 different white and blacklists of known offenders through real-time alerts that were sent directly to the RTCC. “This LPR solution has become a critical asset in the day-to-day operations of our Area Tactical Operations Center,” says Weloth. “During the pilot period nearly 600,000 plates were captured and eight alerts on wanted/stolen vehicles received. Given the relatively small area of coverage this is a significant number of hits.”

In fact, the cameras ability to capture clear surveillance footage was useful in building investigative leads and aiding in high-stake cases.  During a homicide investigation, images of the suspect and vehicle were retrieved from the cameras database and sent it to police in another jurisdiction to aid in the investigation.  Similarly, information from the system was used to track down the suspects of a stolen car with a baby in it.

The future of Ogden

“The Ogden Police Department highly values our partnership with Axis and Rekor,” says Young. “The team provided the police department with the tools we need to be effective in driving down crime in our city.”

The success of the pilot program has led Police Chief Eric Young to initiate plans to roll out the system to other parts of the city.

“The Ogden Police Department highly values our partnership with Axis and Rekor,” says Young.  “The team provided the police department with the tools we need to be effective in driving down crime in our city.”

Over the next year, the city plans to continue investing in the LPR camera technology as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, a national initiative designed to create and foster safe neighborhoods through its commitment to reduce crime.  The hope is to expand the technology about five square miles and eventually cover every entrance into the city.  Potentially, the city will transition to an open surveillance platform by leveraging AXIS Camera Station.  There has been further discussion about integrating additional public safety solutions, such as body-worn cameras and mobile technology for vehicles.  Ogden’s shift from a reactive to a proactive system has proved beneficial for reducing response times and enhancing the overall safety and security of the downtown area. Couple that with the rise in digital technology and the possibilities are seemingly endless.

Chris Shanelaris, Public Relations Manager at Axis Communications US
For further information, please contact: Chris Shanelaris, Public Relations Manager, Americas, Axis Communications
Phone: 978-614-3023