Police catch theft suspect with automatic license plate reader


Morgan Hill police used an automated device that can read thousands of license plates in an hour to catch one suspect who allegedly tried to avoid paying his vehicle registration. 

On Tuesday, officer Max Cervantez was on patrol through the Ramada Inn parking lot, 16115 Condit Road, when his patrol car’s Automated License Plate Reader detected a stolen plate, according to Morgan Hill Police Sgt. Troy Hoefling. 

The officer determined which vehicle the device targeted, and contacted a man who was working on the parked car’s engine, Hoefling said. The man, Fernando Carrasco, 34 of San Jose, told police he stole the license plate from his neighbor in San Jose in order to avoid paying his registration fees. 

During the investigation, the officer’s ALPR located a second vehicle with a stolen license plate in the same parking lot, police said. The investigation found that this car also belonged to Carrasco and he admitted to stealing that plate as well. 

Carrasco was booked into Santa Clara County Jail on suspicion of possession of stolen property, Hoefling said. 

The police department acquired the ALPR through donations from the Morgan Hill Community Law Enforcement Foundation, Hoefling said. The ALPR is installed onto Cervantez’ patrol vehicle and deployed it earlier this year. 

The ALPR system consists of several cameras that automatically read license plates, “whether the car is stationary or moving past a parked or moving vehicle,” Hoefling said. “The cameras have the ability to capture thousands of license plates per hour, during all hours of the day and night, and at high speeds.”

The device is handy not only locating stolen vehicles or license plates, but can also be used to detect automobiles associated with AMBER alerts and wanted subjects, Hoefling said. 

CLEF is a nonprofit organization that raises money through donations, to provide equipment and resources for the Morgan Hill Police Department. In recent years, CLEF has provided the funding to purchase and train the department’s German Shepherd canine officer Pax, and it supports programs such as the Parent Project and Volunteers in Policing. 

More information about CLEF, including the upcoming “Cops and Robbers Ball” fundraiser, can be found at www.morganhillclef.org. 

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