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New technology helps police spot stolen cars, license plates

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By Kay Dimanche, KOAT7 ABC

Jun 27, 2018


Since rolling out the automatic license plate reader in February, Rio Rancho police officers have spotted two stolen cars and one stolen license plate.

"It's a fairly common practice these days for criminals to steal license plates, put them on another car, go and commit other crimes," said Lt. Ken Willey, of the Rio Rancho Police Department.

The license plate reader includes three sets of cameras mounted on top of the unit's trunk.

It's constantly scanning, whether a patrol car is stationary or driving.

And it will catch you even if you're driving in the opposite direction.

If the technology scans your car's license plate and it is stolen, the officer will immediately get an alert and then a picture of the license plate will pop up on their computer's screen. The officer can double-check the technology by manually typing the license plate number into his own computer.

"So, it gives us a view from the car. It gives us a zoomed-in look at the plate that is being read and then it tells us what side of the vehicle that was scanned on -- left or right," said Willey.

Tony said he thinks it will make traffic stops safer.

"I think that works both ways. Definitely safer for them, I think. A lot of times, they end up in (the) situation they do, of that uncertainty of what they're coming into," said Rio Rancho resident Tony Saccoccia.

Luckily, the longtime driver has never had his own car stolen, but knows people who have.

He hopes the technology helps victims.

"There is that hopelessness of how can they even find a car, and something like that seems to make that exponentially easier," said Saccoccia.

Unlike Albuquerque, Rio Rancho hasn't seen a spike in car thefts, but police want to stay on top of the situation.

"As long as you're driving around with the plate that belongs to you and it's not stolen, you have nothing to worry about," said Willey.