OLATHE, Kan. — Law enforcement in Johnson County will soon have an additional set of tools to help investigate crime. Thursday, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) unanimously approved the use of a federal grant to purchase new equipment for the sheriff’s department. 

On September 30, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office received a $595,000 grant from the Justice Department to purchase Automated License Plate Readers (ALPR). 

Tom Dugan, director of finance for the sheriff’s office, said the grant will allow the department to purchase 55 ALPRs to be installed throughout the county. 

“We already have some license plate readers throughout the county. This will expand our coverage area. Those readers are used only for criminal investigation both in real-time, like an Amber Alert or a Silver Alert, or in archive data that might be used in a robbery or burglary,” Dugan said.  

The sheriff’s office currently has five license plate readers; one at the operations facility and four surrounding the perimeter of the county courthouse. The high-speed cameras capture a thumbnail photo of a license tag and vehicle as it passes in front of the reader. 

Chief Security Officer David Stutheit said unlike red-light cameras used for traffic surveillance, the license plate readers will be used to locate stolen vehicles and criminal suspects.

“This is not for traffic enforcement, at all,” Stutheit said. “Kansas City, Missouri, is kind of the model we’ve gone off of. They have [an] inventory of over 500 license plate readers. They’ve seen a significant drop in their time, especially in homicide investigations, from the time offense occurs to when it gets on the district attorney’s desk.”

The new license plate readers will be mounted in high traffic areas. Video pulled from street cameras are typically stored for 30 days. Images taken by the license plate reader will remain in the county storage system for up to two years.  Data collected from the readers will be stored on a local server at the county courthouse. 

“We won’t share that data. It would only be accessed by law enforcement if they were doing an investigation. That data would not be openly available,” Stutheit said.