Are Automated Readers a License to Pry?

Carrollton is latest North Texas city to invest in automated license-plate readers

By Ellen Goldberg
|  Tuesday, Sep 7, 2010  |  Updated 10:55 PM CDT
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Some <a title=Carrollton police cruisers will soon have automated license-plate readers." />

Ellen Goldberg, NBCDFW.com

Some Carrollton police cruisers will soon have automated license-plate readers.

Soon some Carrollton police officers will be able to run the license plates of all the cars in any given parking lot without even hitting their brakes.

Some North Texas cities are investing in cameras that can photograph dozens of license plates at a time that can then be run against police databases.

"It's just an awesome tool that we can mount on existing squad cars that will capture license plates," Carrollton detective James Snyder said.

According to the manufacturer, the automated license-plate readers can do in one minute what would normally take officers up to an hour to do manually.

The Carrollton City Council voted Tuesday night to purchase four of the systems using federal grant money.

Lewisville, which has used the automated readers for two years, credits the technology with hundreds of arrests.

Carrollton police said they hope to experience similar crime-fighting success.

"It's going to be able to identify repeat criminals that continue to target the area," Snyder said.

Carrollton resident Alex Grimmius said he is fine with the idea as long as it's kept out of his home.

"If you want to videotape anything in public, I'm all for it," he said.

But Chad Dunn, who works in Carrollton, said he is skeptical of the automated license readers.

"Any sort of cameras in any area, I'm leery of," Dunn said. "There's always the '1984' factor you worry about -- Big Brother."

But many people said they were willing to sacrifice privacy in the name of public safety.

"We live in very difficult times, with lots of people trying to hurt us," Bill Lovell said. "I think it's a good idea."

Carrollton's automated license plate readers will also identify drivers with unpaid fines, which the city hopes will bring in revenue.

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