Jonesboro leaders say no to more tag readers

JONESBORO — A relatively new crime fighting effort that Jonesboro Police Chief Franklin Allen said has been highly successful for the city will not be expanded because the city council rejected a request for additional equipment this week.

Jonesboro police purchased two four-camera car tag reader systems in 2012. Those systems were split into two-camera systems and installed on four patrol cars that were placed on busy roads to catch drivers who had outstanding arrest warrants, expired tags, suspended driver’s licenses and lapsed insurance or vehicle registrations.

By arguing that the systems had “paid for themselves,” Allen asked the council to approve the purchases of two more two-camera systems.

However, instead of giving their blessings, council members balked at the request and voted 4-2 against the purchase. Therefore, the police department will have to make due with what it’s got.

“Life goes on,” said Allen. “All I’m in a position to do is ask for the necessary equipment and then the council has to make that decision.

In 2013, the tag readers helped Jonesboro police find and arrest 136 people who were wanted on outstanding warrants, Allen told council members during a March 3 work session. Officers have issued nearly 2,000 citations for various offenses including suspended licenses, no insurance and expired tags, he added.

He said Monday that was why he asked for two additional tag reader systems.

“The request was made based on the success of the tag readers,” he added. “We’ve been able to apprehend a lot of wanted people as a result. We’ve been able to remove a lot of suspended drivers, or drivers whose licenses have been suspended, and we’ve been able to get a lot of people whose registration and insurance have lapsed.”

Allen said it is important to keep uninsured drivers off the roads because they can cause other people’s insurance costs to increase if they are involved in an accident.

“It’s just kind of a personal thing with me that anytime a person is involved in an accident and they don’t have insurance, that affects everybody,” said Allen. “That’s one of the primary goals of having the tag readers, is to remove these vehicles from the roadway that do not have legitimate insurance.”

But Mayor Pro Tem Wallace Norrington and councilmen Billy Powell, Jack Bruce and Bobby Wiggins made their opinions on the matter clear when they voted against the purchase.

During last week’s work session, some council members said they thought the police department should spend more time patrolling neighborhoods rather than scanning license plates on Tara Boulevard and Jonesboro Road. On Monday, however, Wiggins put his foot down on the purchasing request for a different reason.

“I think we’ve got enough of them now,” Wiggins said.

But the council’s decision will not deter the police department from using the tag readers it has now, said Allen. He also didn’t rule out the possibility of resubmitting the request at some point in the future.

“We will continue operating with the tag readers that we have and we’ll continue to be successful and maybe in six months, I can make a better presentation to the council and convince them to give me two more,” Allen said.