Vigilant Solutions announced on June 4 that its commercial license plate reader (LPR) data provided an investigative lead into a serial rape cold case dating back over four years.
The details of the case have been obscured at the request of the agency and due to the ongoing legal process.
A detective involved in the investigation recalled the events. “Our department received an anonymous tip in a serial rape investigation. The series of rapes occurred over several years and in multiple counties. All the rapes were believed to have been perpetrated by the same individual. Security video had captured the suspect and his vehicle at the location of one of the rapes that occurred four years prior to the tip. However, the security video did not provide a vehicle color or license plate. DNA and fingerprint evidence did not provide any matches indicating that the serial rapist did not have a criminal record. The case was cold until the anonymous tip was called in,” said the detective.
“The anonymous tip provided a possible suspect name. Since the vehicle license plate was not visible in the security tape I was asked to examine the video. While watching the video I noted several distinct characteristics that appeared on the vehicle in the security video. Having a legitimate investigative purpose, I requested and received a DMV report listing the vehicles that had been registered to the suspect during the time and dates of the rapes. The DMV report listed a vehicle matching the make and model seen in the video.
“With this new information, I ran a query in Vigilant Solutions’ LEARN software against its national LPR database consisting of data that Vigilant collects through its commercial operation, and also of data collected and shared by law enforcement agencies. I located multiple historical scans that showed not only the vehicle color, but also the same distinctive characteristics that appeared in the security video.
“At this point, we knew we had found our man. Because of the number of historical scans available, we were able to document the vehicle’s appearance and condition prior to the date of the incident, during the time of the incident, and after the date of the incident,” the detective continued.
“The data and images provided by in the Vigilant system (four years after the date of this particular rape) were instrumental in helping to make the case against this suspect and take a dangerous predator off of the streets. It should be noted that until this anonymous tip, these LPR scans were never the subject of inquiry…only anonymous bits of data that had to be connected to an individual in the course of an active investigation.”
Brian Shockley, vice president of marketing for Vigilant Solutions, said, “This is a perfect example of how LPR data, commercially gathered and well-aged, can be extremely valuable in a major crimes investigation. We are delighted that this information was available to assist in this case, and wasn’t legislated away by an arbitrary retention policy.”