The use of a high-tech police tool is growing north of the border while it causes controversy in Illinois. Both the Rock County Sheriff's Department and more recently, the Beloit Police Department are using an Automated License Plate Reader (ALPR). It allows police to scan and read hundreds of license plates a day but that technology is also raising privacy concerns in Illinois. 13 News rode along with the sheriff's department to see just how it's used.
Deputy Luke DuCharme doesn't have a normal squad car. His is equipped with four cameras all hooked in an ALPR.
"That maroon truck over there," says DuCharme pointing. "We actually captured his plate as he ran by."
It takes pictures of every car that passes, reading and recording each license plate all in a matter of seconds. It didn't take long either to come across one that raised a red flag and had the computer alerting.
After DuCharme checked the plate he realized it was expired. The deputy pulled over the driver and ticketed her.
The technology is not without controversy in Illinois. There have been lawsuits in places like Chicago because licenses are recorded and stored indefinitely. Privacy advocates say there should be limits. In Rock County, the sheriff's department says it gets rid of license plate information after a year.
"Unless we flag them for investigation reasons otherwise the plate will be purged at the end of 12 months," says Captain Jude Maurer.
He says the technology is not just about handing out tickets. His deputies recently ran the license plate of a missing person. They were able to see where he had been before he disappeared. They also used the plate reader to solve a couple burglaries.
"In one case a burglary that I was going to. Someone else was driving the vehicle someone else captured the plate going away from the burglary," says DuCharme.
In that case they were able get not just a picture of the car but they could see the two suspects in the car.
"I was able to go and find those individuals and take them into custody for that burglary," says DuCharme.
The Rock County Sheriff's Department says the license plate reader is doing the same thing a deputy does every day which is record and run license plates.
The Winnebago County Sheriff's Department had an ALPR until 2012. But it lost the grant funding for the program and could not afford to keep it on its own. Rockford Police had tried out the technology a few years ago but never instituted it.