PIEDMONT -- New technology in town will help police keep a lid on crime with the installation of license plate readers.

The City Council earlier approved spending $678,000 to install the readers at critical points of ingress and egress around Piedmont, such as Grand Avenue and Moraga Avenue.

The readers capture hundreds of license plates per day, programmed to record "hits" on stolen plates, stolen vehicles, vehicles associated with a crime, and those of registered sex offenders.

As of this week, half the 39 sites are operational, police Chief Rikki Goede said.

"They are all installed and ready to go, but all don't have power. We are working with Public Works and the PG&E to power up the rest," she said.

Piedmont Mayor John Chiang stands near the intersection of Maxwelton Road and Moraga Avenue where license plate readers have been installed in Piedmont,
Piedmont Mayor John Chiang stands near the intersection of Maxwelton Road and Moraga Avenue where license plate readers have been installed in Piedmont, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013. The City of Piedmont recently installed license plate readers at various entrance and exit points to the city as a way to reduce crime. (Ray Chavez/Staff)

In some cases, new poles had to be erected to hold the readers, or trees trimmed so as not to impede the readers.

Goede hopes all the readers will be operational within the next couple of weeks.

The readers are linked to an area wide police database "hot sheet" so that a stolen car in Hayward, for example, that travels through Piedmont, will score a "hit."

"We've received well over 40 hits so far," Goede said, "for different things -- lost and stolen plates, stolen vehicles. We got three hits on the same car."

Police last Friday arrested the driver of a vehicle stolen out of Oakland, thanks to the readers. Goede emphasized that someone does not sit all day viewing every plate that is read. When the reader records a hit, it is followed up by police, such as confirming with a vehicle owner that their plate was stolen. The records are retained for a year, then purged.


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Piedmont is busy getting up to speed with the new technology and training for it, Goede said.

"There is a policy when and how the readers can be used," she said. "No information goes out to anybody, it's all confidential."

A few Bay Area cities also utilize license plate readers, such as Pittsburg and San Jose.

On a recent trip Goede made to a police chief's conference, "a lot of the police chiefs from around the country were interested in the readers," she said. "Once you have it and know how to use it, it's a great tool."

License plate readers are installed on a light pole near the intersection of Maxwelton Road and Moraga Avenue in Piedmont, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 21,
License plate readers are installed on a light pole near the intersection of Maxwelton Road and Moraga Avenue in Piedmont, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013. The City of Piedmont recently installed license plate readers at various entrance and exit points to the city as a way to reduce crime. (Ray Chavez/Staff)

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