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Fixed vs. Mobile ALPR: What's the Right Mix for Your Agency?

You’ve already made the case for acquiring additional automated license plate recognition (ALPR) technology for your agency. Now it’s time to decide if you should invest in fixed ALPR, mobile ALPR or a mix. Here’s how to determine the best combination of cameras for your agency.


Fixed ALPR


Fixed ALPR systems are stationary, typically permanently installed at busy intersections or on light posts or overpasses. They make effective investigatory tools, particularly in known high-crime areas or when you’re trying to collect information on vehicles moving in and out of your jurisdiction.

“Fixed ALPR is so valuable from a data capture and evidence perspective,” says Garrett Langley, CEO and founder of Flock Safety, Axon’s ALPR partner. “And stationary cameras work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They don’t take sick days.”

Of course, there are drawbacks to traditional fixed systems. Because traditional fixed systems require a power source and internet connectivity, they’re costly. Plus, there may be limitations on where they can be deployed.

“It can take weeks or months and up to $80,000 per camera just to get them installed because you have to trench fiber and trench power, which is a very cumbersome process,” Langley says. “So often what we find is that agencies put cameras where they’re easy to install rather than where they actually need them.”

Unlike other fixed systems, Flock Safety doesn’t require traditional infrastructure to run. By leveraging solar energy for power and 4G LTE for wireless connectivity, agencies can rapidly deploy fixed ALPRs in under an hour — and at a fraction of the cost. That means agencies can place more cameras exactly where they’re needed.


Mobile ALPR


Mobile ALPR, on the other hand, is designed to be used proactively.

“Mobile ALPR systems extend the capability of fixed systems throughout a jurisdiction and provide immediate response capability to areas of concern such as a recent crime scene or major event to find plates that are of interest,” says Trey Mills, senior product manager, Axon Fleet.

A crucial investigative tool, mobile ALPR increases the likelihood of capturing offenders, including recovering stolen vehicles, apprehending those with felony warrants, and locating subjects of Amber and Silver alerts. It can also help exonerate innocent people and help prevent them from being unnecessarily stopped again in the future.

Mobile ALPR relies entirely on the officer’s vehicle location and the vehicles in the camera’s field of view at any given moment. But by implementing ALPR across the entire fleet, the chances of finding plates of interest using mobile ALPR are multiplied.


The benefits of having both


Ideally, agencies would deploy a combination of fixed and mobile ALPR systems. To make that goal more broadly attainable, Axon and Flock Safety have partnered to integrate their innovative and cost-effective ALPR solutions.

With the release of Fleet 3, Axon will offer mobile ALPR as part of its in-car video system for a fraction of the cost of traditional mobile ALPR units. With Fleet 3, agencies can capture eight times more plate reads for the same spend over using traditional ALPR systems.

Add in Flock Safety’s solar-powered and wireless fixed ALPR solution, and agencies now have the ability to create a comprehensive network when and where it’s needed.

Axon and Flock Safety are offering their respective ALPR solutions for the same price, meaning an agency can select whatever combination of mobile and fixed ALPR works for them.

“The benefit of both the Flock Safety solution and the Fleet 3 solution,” Mills says, “is that we’re taking this capability that has traditionally been reserved for agencies with deep pockets and making it available for any agency.”


Finding the right mix


So, what’s the right balance of fixed ALPR and mobile ALPR? It depends on several factors, including agency size, number of vehicles, geography and public safety goals.

“A lot of times, what an agency will do is create a perimeter defense strategy, putting a fixed camera at every major ingress/egress point in the city to know if a suspect vehicle enters your jurisdiction,” Langley says. “That would create a virtual gate, per se, for your community, and then you can leverage your Fleet 3 cameras for mobile security.”

Exactly how many of each system you need depends on the size of your agency. For a smaller agency that might have just four or five patrol vehicles on the road at any given time, for example, investing more heavily in fixed ALPR might make sense. “But if I’m a larger agency with 50, 100 or more patrol vehicles out at any given time,” Langley says, “increasing my investment in mobile makes more sense because that’s so many vehicles that I can tap into and rapidly deploy at a moment’s notice.”

Whatever mix of fixed and mobile ALPRs you decide is best for your agency, Axon and Flock Safety’s partnership means your officers will only need to learn one system to access the data. Because the solutions from Axon and Flock Safety are integrated, agencies can centralize their ALPR data in either Axon Evidence or Flock Safety’s ALPR portal, depending on their preference.

“Whether the camera is in a car or on a pole, you can go to one place to find the evidence you need to clear a case,” Langley says.


ALPR where you need it


Innovative solutions from Axon and Flock Safety mean ALPR technology is no longer out of reach — no matter the size of your agency. Contact Axon to learn more about ALPR for your agency.