RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Richmond Police Department (RPD) is using new technology to combat everything from traffic violations to shootings in the city, and is already seeing results.
During a crime briefing earlier this month, RPD Acting Chief Rick Edwards announced the department’s use of license plate readers and firearm testing, both of which he said could speed up criminal investigations.
“It delivers unbiased investigative leads and helps solve all kinds of crimes,” Edwards said about the license plate readers.
The license plate readers are operated through a software called Flock. The solar-powered cameras sit on top of black poles and capture “snapshots” of every car that passes by it. It doesn’t record 24/7 as a surveillance video would, but it does put potentially crucial information at the finger tips of officers.
“Our officers can use their city-issued cell phones to get alerts of stolen cars, Amber Alerts for missing children, or they can use it after a crime to see which cars have left the scene,’ Edwards said.
The department has invested in 36 flock cameras throughout the city. The department did not specify the exact location of the cameras, but say they’re strategically placed in high crime neighborhoods. 8News found two of the cameras in the Fairfield and Mosby Court areas.
“It’s a really valuable tool and force multiplier for us,” Edwards said. “It’s a part of our strategy of leveraging technology to fight crime.”
In addition to Flock, the department is also utilizing a NIBIN machine, which stands for National Integrated Ballistic Information Network. The network is a partnership with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and provides testing abilities for every firearm found at a crime scene.
“Every time a semi-automatic pistol or rifle fires, the cartridge is ejected,” Edwards said. “We match the microscopic details, almost like a fingerprint, and it links to other crimes,”
RPD has tested 1,611 firearms so far, and officials say the technology has already led to an arrest in an officer-involved shooting. In December 2022, an officer was shot at inside a patrol car in the city’s southside. Minutes later, officers responded to a crash. Through NIBIN, the department was able to connect the two incidents.
“While officers were investigating the crash, they found a gun that was consistent with the casings they found,” Edwards said. “Within one day we were able to and link them together and we were able to charge Kevon Johnson with attempted capital murder of an officer.”
Detectives believe this system could speed up other investigations by months. Edwards said this could make a big difference, since each day is crucial during these investigations.
“We need quick turnaround on those cases, and with our own NIBIN machine we’re able to get that,” he said.