BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — State and local law enforcement officials said they are increasingly turning to automatic license plate readers to find stolen vehicles and track the movements of criminal suspects.
East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Cpl. Chad Jones said he might have driven right past a pickup truck stolen in Houston without the ever-attentive "eyes" atop his squad car. It was just one of many vehicles in an Albertsons parking lot. But Jones' laptop matched the plate in a national database of stolen cars and an electronic voice notified him of a high-priority alert.
Jones said he arrested the driver on a charge of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle shortly after she left the grocery store.
The cameras photograph thousands of vehicles a day. Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union want to know how law enforcement is using the images.
Agencies across the Baton Rouge area have readers on patrol vehicles. State police have stationary cameras in strategic locations across the state.
Capt. Doug Cain, a state police spokesman, says they have identified vehicles police knew were involved in bank robberies, letting officers set up and make an arrest.
License plate readers typically use optical character recognition and infrared lighting so officers don't have to do a thing.