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Group calls for installation of plate-recognition cameras in Quarter

Josh Woodruff (Source: Facebook) Josh Woodruff (Source: Facebook)

You'll soon see another type of camera mounted on some New Orleans intersections. They will read license plate numbers to help police catch stolen cars or aid in investigations. One French Quarter group explains why they desperately want the cameras set up on the perimeter of the Quarter, too.

It's been more than two months since 28-year-old Josh Woodruff died in a horrific hit-and-run in the French Quarter. His body was dragged all the way to the west bank. New Orleans police said surveillance cameras captured images of the car, but none could make out the license plate.

Many parishes in Louisiana have license plate recognition cameras, a tool some in the French Quarter believe could've helped the NOPD track down the car responsible.

“It clearly would’ve helped,” said Bob Simms with the French Quarter Task Force.

NOPD Sgt. Ernest Luster explains how the cameras work.

“If they use a vehicle in the commission of a crime and we get a description of a specific vehicle, and we know which way they exit, then the license plate reader will give us some info to follow up on,” Luster said.

Right now, the department has seven mobile units that are installed in vehicles deployed in various police districts. The city will soon purchase eight stationary ones that will be set up at high-traffic intersections.

“For the most part, it’s a great preventive tool,” Luster said.

A group of French Quarter business owners and residents gathered at a security task force meeting Tuesday want them positioned on streets like Rampart and Canal.

“Clearly on the perimeters would make more sense where people go in and out,” Simms said.

License plate recognition cameras helped Kenner police track the car of murder victim Jaren Lockhart, whose dismembered body was found on a beach in Bay St. Louis, Miss., after she disappeared. They've solved countless other crimes, as well. The hope of this group is to stop stolen cars and perpetrators fleeing from a scene, or just to bring some closure to the Woodruff family for a crime that originated in the French Quarter, the heart of the city.

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