License plate readers help Chico Police find stolen cars

Jan 14, 2015 8:08 PM

There is one police car that patrols the streets of Chico with a few extra eyes on the road. The car was installed with a new automatic license plate reader. The new tool scans every license plate it sees.

"It can pick up pretty much whatever you drive past." says Chico Police Officer Dave Bailey.

The $20,000 cameras can photograph hundreds of plates at a time. Officer Dave Bailey says the technology flags down criminals.

"Stolen vehicles primarily, but it will also pick up plates for missing or endangered people."

The vehicle collects every cars data and holds it in a secure server for a year. The server can only be seen by law enforcement. Chico Police Sergeant Scott Zushchin says this new technology installed in april has proven to be a useful tool.

"By September we had already had 51 criminal license plate hits, a good portion of those were stolen vehicles." says Zuschin.

The system collects every cars information whether or not it is flagged. The readers are a hot topic across the country, some states have even banned the technology. Privacy advocates are saying the use of the readers are an invasion of privacy.

"Corresponding vehicle movements with surveillance cameras around town can really sink up and place people in locations that otherwise would not have been able to be found." says Chico Criminal Defense Attorney Corie Caraway.

Police say the mission is to do the same job as before, just with the help of new technology.

"It is solely for criminal enforcement and that is our main goal." says Officer Bailey.

The new readers were made possible by the Chico Police Department Business Support Team. Sgt. Zuschin says the department is looking to add another vehicle with the readers if and when funding is available.


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