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Forum staff reports, Published June 27 2012

West Fargo police make metro's first arrest using automated license plate reader

WEST FARGO – In a first-of-its-kind arrest for the metro area, West Fargo police on Tuesday recovered a stolen car by using a vehicle-mounted camera that automatically scans license plates as they pass by and checks them against a national database of stolen vehicles.

The car, a 2012 Dodge Avenger, had been reported stolen in May from a car rental agency at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, according to Assistant West Fargo Police Chief Mike Reitan.

At 8:12 a.m. Tuesday, the stolen car passed by a West Fargo police vehicle equipped with an automated license plate reader (ALPR), which then alerted officers that the vehicle had been entered into the National Crime Information Center’s database, Reitan said in a news release.

Officers stopped the car and arrested its driver, Margarito Gomez Serena Jr., 38, of Moorhead, on suspicion of possession of a stolen vehicle and driving under revocation. He was taken to the Cass County Jail.

West Fargo and Fargo police and the Cass County Sheriff’s Office currently have ALPR units, Reitan said. West Fargo police installed their first ALPR unit in May 2010.

Police officers are responsible for visually comparing the scanned image of the license plate to the actual license plate, Reitan said. The officer also must request a confirmation of the stolen vehicle record through the reporting agency, he said.