How long do you think it would take to read every single license plate number that raced past you on the highway? If you possessed the new automatic license plate reading technology of Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, not very long.

Law enforcement officers in the state of Louisiana have begun using this new form of surveillance to track down stolen cars, missing people, and even suspects in murder cases. San Francisco-based privacy advocates known as Electronic Frontier Foundation and of course the ACLU argue that the use of this technology encroaches upon privacy rights. Looking at the potential benefits of automatic license plate readers, however, the downsides may be worth it.

Since implementing the use of these automatic readers in 2008, Jefferson Parish has applied this technology to recover stolen autos and vehicles linked to Amber Alerts or murder scenes. So far this year, the department has recovered 42 vehicles and made four arrests. Just last month, automatic readers identified a stolen vehicle driven by young Brandon Martinez, who resisted police pursuit but was eventually apprehended inside a Waffle House bathroom.

Police also utilized automatic readers to solve a double-murder case in Metairie, making note of areas in which a suspicious white van had been spotted and then connecting the license plate number with home surveillance to place the murderers at the scene of the crime. In 2012, license plate readers revealed the killers of dancer Jaren Lockhart, whose body washed up on the shore in Hancock County, Mississippi.

While the automatic license plate readers have proven useful in solving crimes, privacy-right groups emphasize that the operation of these devices require no warrants or even suspicions of criminal activity, thus subjecting ordinary citizens to scrutiny without cause. One factor that could hinder the broader use of such cameras would be the extreme cost. So far, only two officers in Jefferson Parish can access the database queries, and even then, maintaining the system costs up to $200K per year.

With this developing technology, law enforcement officers have even more tools at their fingertips in order to fight crime, but the public still relies on the help of private investigators for more personal inquiries, such as a runaway teenager or ex-girlfriend. If you need a missing persons detective, call Holliday Investigative Services or check out their website today; they’re here to help.