Although some law enforcement agencies publish data on the number of license plates photographed by license plate readers, few provide information on why police search for license plates. According to a document released by the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center, (NCRIC) the most common search in October 2021 was related to “Locate Stolen, Wanted, or Suspect Vehicles.”
When law enforcement agencies search NCRIC’s license plate database, they select one of six reasons for why they are searching for a license plate in the database:
- Locate Stolen, Wanted, or Suspect Vehicles
- Locate Suspect(s) of Criminal Investigation or Arrest Warrant
- Locate Witnesses or Victims of Violent Crime
- Locate Missing Children and Elderly individuals (Amber / Silver Alerts)
- Protect Critical Infrastructure
- Protect the Public during Special Events / Situational Awareness
For October 2021, 1015 or 67% of the searches were for stolen, wanted or suspect vehicles. The next was common search was to locate suspects with 442 searches or 29%.
The least frequent searches were to locate witnesses or victims with 33 searches (2%), locating people for amber or silver alerts with 12 searches (0.8%), protecting critical infrastructure with 8 searches (0.5%) and protecting the public/situation awareness with 4 searches (0.25%).