Arizona officials are testing new electronic equipment that “reads” the license plates of cars and trucks on the road, then feeds the information into a computer to determine whether the vehicle is stolen or wanted for some other reason. A positive match sets off an alarm, allowing the officer to pull over the suspect vehicle, get positive verification by radio and, if appropriate, make an arrest.
The $22,000, installed on six state police cars, do essentially what patrol officers do, but much faster. The system can review about 1,500 license plates during an eight-hour shift.
Officials hope the devices can lift Arizona out of its dubious distinction of having one of the highest vehicle-theft rates in the country. In 2004, the most recent figures available, more than 55,000 cars and trucks were stolen. That is the third-highest rate in the country. The first vehicles getting the equipment are those that patrol counties bordering on Mexico, where many stolen vehicles ends up.