Sheriff To Get License Plate Reader

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

July 31, 2020

The County Sheriff’s Office will be picking up a couple of pieces of equipment that will make bookings at County Jail go faster and also help fight smuggling on the North Coast.

County Sheriff Ian Parkinson got permission from County Supervisors to take some $73,000 out of a Sheriff-Coroner’s Trust Fund filled with grant monies, to buy a LiveScan Station and an Automated License Plate Reader.

The $16,900 LiveScan is an electronic device that takes an inmate’s fingerprints and is a far cry better than the old rolled-on ink prints.

The device is “used to scan and process the fingerprints of all prisoners brought to the jail, whether they are released on a promise to appear, post bail or are housed inside the facility,” Sheriff Parkinson said in a staff report. “The Livescan system is a significant improvement over older methods of taking fingerprints and allows for quick verification of a prisoner’s identity.”

The County Jail sees a lot of business every day, with arrestees coming in as others are being released. A second LiveScan would speed up the whole process and provide backup.

“In addition,” Sheriff Parkinson said, “a second Livescan workstation would create redundancy in the system that would allow for the IRC to continue operations should one of the systems cease functioning. The redundancy would allow Sheriff’s IT personnel to repair the down system, without creating an exigency that could result in overtime for after hours and weekend response of IT staff.”

The Automated License Plate Reader would cost $56,100,
and be mounted on a small trailer, so it can be positioned at different spots on Hwy 1, the main area where smugglers have landed boats and off loaded drugs and human cargo.

“The North Coast of San Luis Obispo County,” the Sheriff said, “has been the site of multiple maritime smuggling landings. This area is a remote location accessed only by one road, Highway One, which runs from Monterey to Cambria, California. The use of a mobile Automated License Plate Reader mounted on a portable trailer will enable the Sheriff’s Office to capture images of license plates for vehicles travelling in coastal areas where these landings have occurred.”

The license plate readers are equipped with an infrared camera to photograph plates at night when these smugglers operate.

Several years ago, SLO County saw a spate of Panga boat landings from Montana de Oro to Piedras Blancas, as Mexican drug cartels used the seaworthy and cheap fishing boats to smuggle pot, cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin, as well as people.

The boats often sport three big outboard motors and travel 100 miles offshore to avoid detection. In what must be a harrowing ride up the California Coast from Ensenada, the boats travel non-stop at top speed, braving swells, winds and worse. Even more boats are caught offshore and never make it to landfall.

The boat smuggling was heavy for several years as law enforcement sealed off other smuggling routes at the border and then dropped off. But it hasn’t gone away completely, as a recent case in Santa Barbara County demonstrated.

Just this past March 12, a Panga boat came ashore at Hollister Ranch in Goleta with more than 2,100 kilos (4,700 pounds) of marijuana on board. Four Mexican nationals connected to the Sinaloa Cartel (formerly run by the infamous Juaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán), were arrested by U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), with help from the Border Patrol and Coast Guard. Each man faces 10 years in prison.

Some 14 others were waiting on the beach for the shipment, with others on hillsides acting as lookouts. The traffickers fled when ICE agents arrived. Twenty-one suspects were caught but only four retained for charges. The other 17 were released.

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