Automated license plate reader leads Hopewell Police to kidnapping and armed robbery suspects

Two men were driving a stolen truck along Route 31 in Pennington just before 2:30 a.m. on March 20 while an officer from Hopewell Township Police was on patrol in a marked car equipped with an automated license plate reader.

The license plate reader scanned the plate of a southbound 2014 Ford F450 truck and alerted the officer that the truck had been reported stolen out of Houston, Texas on March 13. Police pulled the truck over. The driver, Ernesto Herrera-Lesteiro, 23, and passenger, Yonder Diaz-Sanchez, 27, were taken into custody, police said.

Credit cards were found in the truck that were stolen during an armed robbery of a truck driver in Perryville, Maryland on March 17, according to police. Maryland State Police obtained extradition warrants and charged both men with kidnapping, carjacking, theft and assault with a knife.

Hopewell Police charged the pair with receiving stolen property and possession of
marijuana. Both men, Cuban nationals and list Paterson as their home addresses, were lodged without bail in the Mercer County Correction Center.

Mercer County began using automated license plate readers in the summer of 2016. The prosecutor’s office funded mounted camera systems for 25 vehicles throughout local and county police departments, Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office Spokeswoman Casey DeBlasio said.

Law enforcement agencies throughout the nation are increasingly adopting automated license plate reader technologies to strengthen their enforcement and investigative capabilities, expand their collection of data, and expedite the process of manually comparing vehicle license plates with lists of stolen, wanted, and other vehicles of interest. The systems automatically capture an image of the vehicle’s license plate, transform that image into alphanumeric characters, compare the plate number to one or more databases of vehicles of interest to law enforcement and other agencies, and alert the officer when a vehicle of interest has been discovered. The automated capture, analysis, and comparison of vehicle license plates typically occurs within seconds, alerting the officer almost immediately when a wanted plate is observed.