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An evidence-based approach to using LPR

An evidence-based approach to using LPR suggests that law enforcement agencies should use LPR units in conjunction with patrol and investigative strategies that have been shown to be effective. Research indicates that effective strategies are those that are place-oriented, tailored to specific problems, and proactice (see the Evidence-Based Policing Matrix).

Unfortunately, despite the widespread and rapid adoption of LPR in law enforcement, tactics and strategies using LPR continue to be under-evaluated with regard to their effectiveness. We now know a great deal about the efficiencies of LPR, but there have only been two rigorous evaluations that have examined the whether the most common uses of LPR can lead to improvements in the prevention, detection and deterrence of crime, disorder or traffic-related offenses.

CEBCP’s LPR research team has been at the forefront of building this evidence-base to be used by police agencies when making decisions about whether to purchase LPR, or, if they have already acquired this technology, how to use LPR in the most fair, legitimate and effective ways possible. The field experiments, national surveys, and community assessments initially conducted by members of the GMU team, and now by others (RAND, IACP) are intended to improve this evidence base by generating a variety of information that police leaders can use to make informed decisions. Download the full 2010 GMU Final Report. For more information on GMU’s new LPR research project, click here.

National Trends

The 2016 LPR National Survey Report is now available. Download an early GMU study of GMU’s national, random sample survey of LPR use in large and small police agencies in the United States. The International Association of Chiefs of Police and Police Executive Research Forum may also have more information about national trends in use of LPR.

Transparency with the Communities You Serve

Improving your legitimacy with the communities you serve relies on multiple strategies that span from the individual interactions that officers have with citizens to organizational strategies. The deployment of new technology in policing can either improve or damage police legitimacy with the community. How a department introduces new technology, provides means for the community to understand and comment on deployment strategies, and allows citizens to express their concerns about how technology will be used, can influence the community perceptions of the police department’s legitimacy. Thus, how well LPR is explained to the communities agencies serve, and the openness of the dialogue about LPR use are just as important as considering the crime reduction effectiveness of the system.

LPR Deployment for Police Leadership

The Experience: What policies and practices have been developed by other police departments that are currently using LPR?

The Evidence: What sort of evidence should the police be using to make decisions about innovative practices and the aquisition of technology? What are the findings of research that has evaluated LPR in particular?

Important Considerations: Law enforcement agencies must be aware, sensitive, and transparent about LPR concerns related to data collection, and privacy.

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