SOMERVILLE, MA --- More and more cities, including Somerville, MA, are equipping their law enforcement agencies with an automatic license plate reader, manufactured by ELSAG North America Law Enforcement Systems.

The system targets vehicle-related crime and operators who are not properly licensed or who may be wanted in connection with a crime, such as a stolen, unregistered or uninsured vehicle.

The system works like this: Two cameras are mounted on a police cruiser for routine patrols during a shift. While patrolling, the camera captures images of all surrounding license plates and sends the images of the vehicle and the license plate to the officer's laptop screen in the cruiser. The computer then searches local, state and federal databases and will send a "hit" to the officer if it identifies a vehicle/operator as stolen, wanted or in violation of the law.

A critical component to the MPH-900 is that it is so easy to use. Once the officer logs in, he or she does not need to do anything until an alarm is sounded. When the alarm sounds, the officer then initiates a further inquiry before taking action.

"ELSAG North America Law Enforcement Systems' MPH-900 is a robust system and a force multiplier for our department," said Somerville Police Chief Anthony Holloway. "Two Somerville Police cruisers are equipped with this technology and each can query thousands of registration plates each day, many more than our officers could do by manually inputting the data. Each unit is capable of querying 1,500 plate numbers per hour. The system also allows us to create a 'hot list' of vehicles that are being sought in connection with local crimes and will be especially useful in the event of an Amber Alert."

ELSAG North America's MPH-900 is currently used by over 400 agencies in 30 states across the U.S.