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WSP photographing license plates at Bainbridge, Seattle ferry terminals

By TAD SOOTER

Bainbridge Review

The Washington State Patrol has begun running criminal checks on the license plate numbers of all vehicles boarding ferries on Bainbridge and at Seattle's Colman Dock, as it tests a new security system.

Testing of an Automatic License Plate Recognition System began at 8 a.m. Wednesday.

WSP Sgt. Trent Cain said a camera photographs the license plate of each vehicle as it pulls away from the terminal toll booth. The license plate numbers are then digitized and checked against four criminal databases.

The system will automatically flag a vehicle if it has been reported stolen, if it is listed in an AMBER Alert, if someone associated with the vehicle is wanted for a felony crime, or if the license plate is "associated with a known or suspected terrorist," the release stated.

If a vehicle matches any of those criteria, an alarm is sounded at a WSP command center, and a trooper is dispatched to verify the plate number and investigate the vehicle.

"It's adding another layer of security to our Washington State Ferries," Cain said.

According to the release, all license plate photos are stored for 60 days then deleted from the system. Vehicle occupants are not photographed and the information of registered owners will not be stored.

Cain said the Seattle to Bainbridge ferry run was chosen for testing the technology because of its high traffic volume.

The ALPR pilot project is being conducted through WSP’s Homeland Security Division, and was funded by a federal grant.

WSP may seek funding to install the ALPR system at other Washington State Ferries terminals if the Bainbridge and Seattle testing is successful. Bremerton's terminal would likely be next to receive the technology, Cain said.

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