Police: Scanners could have saved victims of the Beltway snipers

John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo were driving a blue 1990 Chevrolet Caprice sedan when they killed 10 people in the Washington metro. (Courtesy of the FBI)

WASHINGTON – License plate technology now in use could have made a life-or-death difference for the victims of the Beltway snipers in 2002, according to police.

Montgomery County Assistant Police Chief Russ Hamill is confident if the department had the license plate readers now commonly used, the outcome would have been different.

“We could have foresaw the future murders that occurred,” Hamill said, referring to the 2002 case that terrorized the D.C. region.

Montgomery County now has 22 license plate scanners in the field which officers use to scan a parking lot full of cars in just minutes for violations.

The scanner’s ability to look for plate patterns would have been invaluable in finding snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo in the first hours of the investigation, Hamill said.

The snipers killed 10 people were killed in D.C., Maryland and Virginia as police searched in vain for a white box truck they believed the suspects were driving.

The license plate readers could have narrowed the focus of the investigation by flagging the fact that the suspect’s car was in the vicinity of each shooting, Hamill said.

“I think if this technology was there we could have identified them a lot faster,” Hamill said.

Muhammad was found guilty and executed. His accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, is serving life without parole.

Hamill briefed a Montgomery County Council committee on the use of the readers Thursday.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow Kate and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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