Like a guard that never sleeps, the new automated license plate reader device will be a dream come true for Blue Springs Police.

Like a guard that never sleeps, the new automated license plate reader device will be a dream come true for Blue Springs Police.

And a nightmare come true for law breakers.

As Kansas City recently joined the growing list of area cities using the new technology, Blue Springs is following the pack. Tucked in the proposed capital improvement fund are requests for two automatic license plate readers, which will be installed in two traffic unit cruisers in the coming months.

Using three infrared cameras mounted on top of the trunk and pointed in different directions, the readers scan license plates automatically, alerting officers of stolen vehicles and/or operators who have outstanding warrants. It can scan a plate on a vehicle traveling 70 mph in the opposite direction.

“This is a very efficient and important function,” Chief Wayne McCoy said.

Blue Springs will join Olathe, Lenexa, Grandview, the Jackson County sheriff’s office and North Kansas City as communities now using the technology.

Troy Pharr, spokesperson for police, said the technology will get results and improve efficiency.

“This technology is terrific, something I would love to have had working the road years ago,” he said. “It’s amazing what technology can do.”

The readers also scan for Amber Alert information and more, providing officers with a quick and efficient tool that eliminates the often tedious duty of doing it the old-fashioned way.

“It takes a lot of time to perform the same duty these readers can do rather quickly,” Pharr said.

To scan a full parking lot would take only a few minutes, which is considerably shorter than an officer checking each individual plate.

The readers can record thousands of plates each day. When the readers scan plates, be it on the street or in a large parking lot, a close-up photo of the tag and a color photo of the vehicle appears on the patrol car’s laptop computer. The photo also shows the vehicle’s location.

The information is then loaded into a police database for future use, typically for comparison and reference in later crimes. It’s unclear how long the department plans to keep the information.

While McCoy said the new technology will be installed in traffic unit patrol cars, police could use the readers to “sweep” crime scenes, and in the process possibly record the suspect as he/she flees the scene.

“(The traffic unit patrol cars) are the cars that are in a position of contacting more vehicles than any other and less likely to be tied up in crime investigation scenarios,” McCoy said.

In many cases, Pharr said, police arrive at a location and pass by the suspect unknowingly. With a database, police could check it to see whether a specific plate had been spotted near any specific crime scenes.

Pharr said policies need to be implemented to ensure that the officer makes the correct decision.

“Let’s say the officer is heading toward a burglary call and he passes a car and there’s an outstanding warrant on the driver,” he said. “Which does the officer choose? There needs to be some guidelines put in place.”

The technology has raised privacy concerns. Late last year, residents in Columbia, Mo., balked at the technology, calling it an invasion of privacy.

Dan Viets of the Mid-Missouri Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said in another published article that the reader is a “major invasion” into peoples’ privacy – specifically the database. Calls to the local ACLU office on Tuesday were not returned.

The new technology is part of a flurry of public safety improvements adopted this year in Blue Springs, including  the CodeRED notification system, the Text-A-Tip program, and funding for mobile dash terminals for patrol cars, which will allow officers to remain on the street while completing report documentation, quick access of records and prevention of radio traffic overload.