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Governor Martin O'Malley Announces Enhanced Fight Against Auto Theft

Press Release

Location: Greenbelt, MD

Joined by local and state law enforcement officials, community leaders, and others, Governor Martin O'Malley today detailed a significant expansion of the Maryland License Plate Recognition (LPR) program. In the last three years, Maryland's motor vehicle theft rate has decreased 35.8% due to the Governor's commitment of millions to deploy this high-tech system.

"Together, thanks to the dedication of law enforcement and the cooperation of local communities and the innovative use of state-of-the-art technology, we've driven violent crime and property crime down to their lowest rates ever reported," said Governor O'Malley. "Protecting the public's safety is among our most solemn obligations as public servants. Using this technology to dramatically reduce vehicle thefts keeps our neighborhoods safe and enhances the quality of life for every Marylander."

An LPR network that has linked state law enforcement agencies will now be extended to local jurisdictions as well. This makes Maryland the first state in the nation to create a statewide LPR network. Governor O'Malley made his announcement outside the Municipal Building in Greenbelt, the first local police department in the state to join the network.

"This cutting edge technology will increase officer efficiency many times over which will go a long way in protecting citizens and their property," said Greenbelt Chief James Craze. "This is a fine example of partnerships that are the hallmark of Homeland Security."

Using a camera mounted on a police car, an officer can scan the license plate of passing cars. The information on the tag is then checked instantly against a database of cars that have been reported stolen or are being sought by the police for other reasons. The LPR will then alert the officer immediately through a computer in the police car, and the officer can take appropriate action.

Over the past 3 ½ years, the State has made $2 million available to law enforcement to deploy 105 LPR units around the state. Given the positive results of LPRs in Maryland, Governor O'Malley announced a three-point-plan to double that investment, and expand and leverage this valuable tool to reduce crime and protect Maryland's critical infrastructure -- including our airports, ports, bridges, tunnels and rail stations.

1. The State will provide up to $2 million additional in grant funding to help law enforcement agencies purchase and deploy 100 additional LPR units. These LPRs will be strategically positioned to fight crime and protect critical infrastructure nodes.
2. All existing LPRs will be networked to ensure seamless coordination and consistent information sharing during critical incidents.

3. A single, easy-to-use, database will be created at Maryland's fusion center so that verified LPR data can be securely accessed by law enforcement agencies with a legitimate need.

The additional $2 million commitment originates from federal Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, federal homeland security funding, and the Maryland Department of Transportation. LPR data is only used for legitimate law enforcement purposes. The privacy rights of Maryland's citizens are protected using appropriate policies and procedures for public safety purposes.

Through the innovative use of public safety technology, unprecedented information sharing across borders, and strategic reforming of long-troubled public safety state agencies, law enforcement personnel throughout Maryland have driven crime to historic lows:

* Violent crime at its lowest rate ever reported.
* Homicides at their lowest rate ever reported.
* Robberies at their lowest rate ever reported.
* Aggravated Assaults at their lowest rate since 1976.
* Motor vehicle thefts at their lowest rate ever reported.
* Property crime at its lowest rate ever reported.
* Total crime at its lowest rate ever reported.

After inheriting a shameful 24,000 backlog of DNA samples, Governor O'Malley dedicated the necessary resources to clearing that backlog, resulting in more than 220 murderers, rapists, robbers and other offenders arrested and removed from Maryland's streets. Governor O'Malley has championed other innovative uses of public safety technology, including the creation of the Public Safety Dashboard, enabling law enforcement to access more than 92 databases at once, now receiving up to 40,000 queries a day.

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