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License Plate Readers Raise Privacy Concerns

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Brian New
Brian joined the CBS 11 News team in 2013 after working a...
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ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) - They’re becoming a popular tool among law enforcement in North Texas, but automated license plate readers come with their critics.

Earlier this month, the Dallas City Council approved a contract to buy 28 license plate readers for the police department.

The Arlington Police Department has had the readers on five patrol vehicles for nearly two years. The department was one of the first in the state to use the controversial readers.

With four cameras mounted on top of a patrol vehicle, the readers are designed to scan thousands of license plates instantly alerting officers of stolen vehicles and fugitives.

The Arlington Police Department said it has also found the readers to be helpful in investigations since every license plate scanned, along with where and when the picture was taken, is storied in a giant database.

“If there’s an investigation and a detective needs further information and he believes this individual was at this certain place at this certain time, then we can go back and search for that,” Arlington police officer Ray Morales.

However, Kurt Schwarz, the president of the Texas American Civil Liberties Union said he sees storing the information collected as “problematic.”

“This would be the government collecting on a massive scale what I believe most people would consider private information. Where you are at any given time? Who you are seeing? Who are you associating with?” he explained.

The Arlington Police Department said it does not do random searches and only stores the information for a year.