The Jackson Police Department is purchasing an automatic license plate reader for the four major police precincts this year. The Jackson City Council approved the $76,978 purchase Tuesday, after learning that a Department of Justice COPS Technology Grant is supplying the one-time money for the purchase.
Automatic license-plate readers come in both mobile and stationary versions, but the versions headed to the department are the mobile type that tag along with patrol vehicles.
The readers take photographs of license plates from moving and parked vehicles on city streets. Once police get the numbers, they tap into the databases of the National Crime Information Center and the Mississippi Department of Highway Safety and other local law enforcement agencies and run a comparison.
These "hotlists" contain information about outstanding warrants associated with vehicle registration, as well as stolen tags and vehicles. They also reveal whether or not the tag-owner has any outstanding traffic tickets and fines.
The city issued a press statement saying the readers should be on the road and working within 60 days. Police Chief Rebecca Coleman said she can't wait to see them at work.
"We are pleased that we are able to purchase this technology that will particularly aid us in identifying individuals who have outstanding warrants and that will assist us in identifying stolen vehicles," Coleman said.
In other news, the police department recorded a total of 308 incidents of major crime between June 20 and June 26, which is an increase from 235 reported incidents last week.
Coleman said no single factor contributed to the uptick, but said precinct commanders were steering patrol vehicles to areas of recent higher-than-normal crime.
Some of the crimes connect with youth. Precinct 1 Commander Jesse Robinson told Coleman and others at this morning's COMSTAT meeting that they've arrested multiple home burglars possibly ranging in ages from 8 to 13.
"What they're taking are things like iPods and game systems, Xboxes and things like that. Its small stuff, but it counts as house burglary," said Robinson, who added that he was eager for the summer break to end.
Precinct commanders also reported an increase in theft of air-conditioners, as well as a slight uptick in assaults stemming from a statewide upgrade in domestic abuse laws that now classify strangling or attempting to strangle a domestic partner or their child as aggravated domestic violence.
The department recorded 21 incidences of aggravated assault between June 20 and June 26, compared to only nine incidences the previous week. Gov. Haley Barbour signed SB 2472, which upgrades a strangle-hold to aggravated assault, in April.
Total violent crime was up 46.4 percent compared to the previous week with 41 incidences compared to 28 incidences the earlier week. It also reported a total o 267 incidences of property crimes, compared to only 207 for the preceding June 20.
Overall major crime in the city is still lower than it was at this time last year, with a total of 5,693 crimes this year compared to 5,921 incidents of major crime last year, a 3.9 percent decrease.