Controversial crime fighting tool bought by OKC police

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Leaders in Oklahoma City give the green light to purchase a controversial high tech crime fighting tool. The plan is to put automated license plate readers in some police cruisers.

Essentially the cameras will take a picture of every license plate tag they pass. The information on the cars and their location is then stored in a central database.

The technology would allow Oklahoma City police to scan thousands of license plates per minute.

“It takes a picture of the tag and the location at that particular time,” said Oklahoma City police chief Bill Citty.

Chief Citty says the camera mounted in the squad car will then instantly alert officers if any car on the road has been reported stolen.

“There’s probably daily where stolen cars drive by officers but they don’t have the time to check it,” said Citty. “This automatically does all that.”

“It can be an enormously valuable tool. Our concern isn’t with the scanning. It’s what happens to the data,” said Brady Henderson with the Oklahoma ACLU.

Henderson worries the city doesn’t have a policy for how long the information on the license plates will be stored and who has access to the database.

“The way we look at it, the policy should exist first and be very clear how the data will be used and how long it will be kept,” said Henderson.

Some on council agree with those concerns.

“Privacy is a big issue right now. I’d hate to violate some privacy issues,” said city councilman Pat Ryan.

The chief says only 17 squad cars will be equipped with the cameras, but exactly how long the information collected will be stored remains up for debate.

“Right now we’re trying to determine how long we’ll keep that info. 60 to 90 days is what we’re discussing,” said Citty.

The chief says it will be several months before the cameras are installed.