Police Technology Collects License-Tag Numbers

7:50 AM, Sep 26, 2013   |    comments
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Officer Alfred McCoy of the Macon Police has eyes in the back of his head when it comes spotting the license plates of stolen cars.

That's because of a new high-tech system installed on the back of his cars with cameras that can instantly capture people's license plate numbers.

There are 5 such units on cars in the Macon Police. The units are manufactured by ELSAG North America, and each costs around $21,000.

They're placed on the backs of patrol cars at different angles so plates can be captured whether the car is stopped or moving.

The system is synced with a computer which updates Georgia's "hot list" of stolen cars, and can also check for people with warrants or expired tags.

Before, McCoy says he would never know if a car was stolen unless he pulled them other for doing something else like speeding.

While the system is a useful tool for catching stolen vehicles, it also scans everyone else who drives past.

Macon Police Spokeswoman Jami Gaudet says the department isn't sure how long that data is stored in the system, and referred us to the ELSAG company.  They did not return our call.

Mercer Law Professor says the data storing and scanning of innocent drivers raises questions about privacy.

"It doesn't seem to me that searching involves canvassing and blanketing all kinds of data.  That's not a search, that's a huge governmental overlay. I think's that's not constitutional," Oedel says.

McCoy says he hasn't caught any stolen vehicles yet, but says some of his fellow officers in other precincts have.

Follow 13WMAZ's Tom George on Twitter @thetomgeorge

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