Police device automatically scans license plates for stolen cars

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PHOENIX -- Phoenix police officers are patrolling streets with a new secret weapon.

Mixed feelings from drivers

"I'm going 80 and it's catching cars going the opposite direction that I'm sure are going 80. It's reading plates going past you, behind you around you."

It's an automated license plate reader. Cameras mounted on top of police cars are taking pictures of plates, then comparing them to a database of stolen vehicles.

They can read up to 50,000 plates in only a few hours.

"It has cameras all over the car so when they patrol metro center they can recover 5 cars real quick."

We went out to metro center to see what drivers, like Edward Mank.

"I think that's awesome. My mother had her car stolen about a year and a half ago."

"It's a good thing and it's a bad thing. If my car was stolen then it would be a great issue but there again, then they have the right to get into your life more and more." says motorist Kim Davis. "I don't know, that's kind of like invasion of privacy."

Edward Mank agrees on that point.

"I'm sure it has its pros and cons, some people might feel like they're being watched more than they should be. I'm sure that there's two sides to every story but I think there's more good in that than bad."

Police say its working. They're recovering more than half of our stolen cars.

And when they bust just one suspect investigators say they often bust a major ring - and some major crime.

Troy Finley from the Phoenix police says "If you ever look at some of the officer involved shootings a lot of them involve stolen cars with other felony crimes, so a stolen car is a symptom of something a lot of other things usually, you know, methametaphine, drugs, robbery, it could be anything but usually there's something else to the picture."

Here's a picture of some of the top valley vehicles thieves are targeting:

- Dodge trucks

- Chevy trucks

- Nissans

- Honda Accords

- Toyota Camrys

- Accura Integras

Most of them are '91 to '94 year models that investigators say are easier to steal.

"Your car may be a piece of junk but it's worth something to somebody, especially for parts." says Finley.

And Mank says it was especially worth something to his mother.

"She felt violated. That's how she felt."