Specialized Toronto cop cars are taking pics of every single plate and here's why
Toronto car thefts are on the rise in 2022, with 1,240 stolen cars in just the first two months of the year already shattering last year's 12-month total of 810.
Many of these cars will likely never be reunited with their rightful owners, but the Toronto Police actually have an astonishing recovery rate thanks to some high-tech tools.
A specialized type of cop car has been locating stolen automobiles for years, looking just like a standard (red and white livery-era) Toronto police vehicle, but with one glaring difference. In place of the flashing lights seen on a typical squad car, these have cameras.
Staffed by parking enforcement officers, these cars prowl Toronto streets block by block, equipped with pairs of forward-looking infrared cameras that meticulously capture photos of every single car they pass by.
Conspiracy lovers have probably already stopped reading, likely convinced that these cameras are out capturing our faces for some sinister surveillance program.
But anyone whose attention hasn't already wandered to darker conclusions will be relieved to hear that these cameras are simply looking for licence plates of stolen vehicles.
The cameras feed into AutoVu automatic licence plate recognition software that can identify stolen plates in real-time, which are immediately flagged for police officers to investigate.
It's a surprisingly effective program, and in 2016, the Streetsweeper unit scanned over 5.2 million licence plates on their trips around the city, resulting in the recovery of 669 stolen vehicles.
The biggest surprise of that statistic is that people are not only dumb enough to leave the original plates on stolen cars, but also to park them out in the open where high-tech police gadgets can catch thieves slipping.
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