Northeast Joco

New Prairie Village police interceptor is equipped with license plate scanners.

Criminals in Prairie Village aren’t safe at McDonald’s, or anywhere else.

While waiting in the drive-thru at a McDonald’s, an officer in the Prairie Village Police Department’s new “Directed Patrol Unit” used a license plate scanner to identify the car in front of him as stolen. Patrol commander Capt. Wes Lovett said the officer reported the car to Kansas City police, who were able to arrest the suspect at the McDonald’s.

The car uses three directional cameras to constantly scan license plate numbers. Lovett said plate numbers are run through a “hot sheet” or a database of plates associated with various crimes. In Prairie Village, the system searches for plates that are stolen or connected to a warrant.

Unlike other Prairie Village police cars, which are white and black, this car is dark blue and doesn’t have a rack of lights on top. Lovett said the car is meant to blend in more.

“You’ll see it mostly on side streets,” he said.

Because burglars often use stolen vehicles, Lovett said the hope is the unit will assist in identifying burglars.

It appears to be working. In the first three weeks of use the department has made four arrests. Lovett said that the department is training a second driver so the car be used more often.

License plate scanners are not uncommon in Johnson County. Lovett said Lenexa, Overland Park and Leawood police departments have similar units.

Police Chief Wes Jordan briefed the City Council on the car at Monday’s meeting. He said the car was paid for with forfeiture funds, which is revenue brought in through the sale of illegally used property.

“Thanks to the drug dealers for making this possible,” Jordan said.

Also during the meeting the council approved a partnership with Mercer Group, a consulting firm, to conduct a search for the city’s new public works director. Mercer is the same firm that helped the city hire City Administrator Quinn Bennion and Jordan.

The council also elected Dale Warman to council president. Current council president Charles Clark nominated him.