Car thieves beware: A new gadget is on its way to Tempe, and it’s looking for you.
Mobile license-plate recognition systems will soon begin scanning cars in search of stolen vehicles and license plates. While police typically enter license plate numbers into their computers manually and wait for the results to return, the new systems will do the job automatically.
The city has purchased two of the $26,000 devices and will use them in areas with large volumes of cars, such as malls and parking lots, officials said.
One device was paid for through a grant from the Arizona Automobile Theft Authority, and Tempe purchased the second system using state money that comes from racketeering crimes that have been solved.
The gadgets consist of a camera that will be placed on the roof of a patrol car and a computer that will go inside the car. When the device finds a stolen license plate or stolen car, the system’s computer screen will flash a picture of the plate and an alarm will alert the officer.
According to the manufacturer’s Web site, the devices can scan 8,000 to 10,000 vehicles in one officer’s shift and can read plates across four lanes of traffic.
The devices were purchased from Remington Elsag Law Enforcement Systems, which is a joint venture between Remington Arms Company based in Madison, N.C., and Elsag Spa in Genoa, Italy.
“Year after year the technology is getting better,” said Tempe Sgt. Joe Brosius.
The devices will only look for stolen cars and plates and will not be used to locate people with outstanding warrants, suspended licenses or any other issues, Brosius said. Also, the devices will not identify vehicles stolen from other states.
Officials said they hope to have the systems in use by the end of September and are currently working to program statewide license plate information into the system.
“The license plate reader program has to be able to differentiate that the cactus on the Arizona plates or a wheelchair isn’t a number,” Brosius said.
“They have to program all these things into the computer to make sure the computer understands how to read a plate in Arizona.”
The Arizona Department of Public Safety installed the cameras into six of its vehicles last week.
Mesa police were the first local agency to get the systems.