DEA installs license plate readers on I-19

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- Drivers traveling south on Interstate 19 might notice some construction work near the Border Patrol checkpoint.  The DEA is installing license plate readers to catch smugglers.

It was first reported by "Nogales International."

The federal agency isn't giving details, but some readers are already installed in Southern Arizona.

It doesn't look like much right now, just a dirt clearing and some construction equipment, but the drug enforcement administration is installing license plate readers along the southbound lanes of the I-19.

The technology will go up next to the Border Patrol check point, just north of Tubac.

Some locals like the idea of more surveillance.

"Trying to catch people that are running drugs, I'm all for it," said Green Valley resident Rossalie Ripley.  "Anything they can do to destroy the drug traffic I'm happy with.  I'm happy to cooperate any way they can."

"Well I know they've had budgets for it and I always wondered what it was being spent on," said Tubac resident Mark Christopher.  "At least now we can see a tangible piece of that."

A spokesperson for the DEA in Phoenix says the agency does not comment on investigative techniques.

She would not discuss what the installation will look like and whether there are existing installations in Southern Arizona.

The blog 'Roadblock Revelations,' cites an article from a Tohono O'odham publication, confirming equipment near three points includes license plate readers placed by the DEA.

"It's one thing if you're in violation of something and the police pull you over but it's another thing to record your license plate," said Peg Cass.

Tucson resident Peg Cass called the readers a violation of privacy.  She does not want her information recorded as she drives, "It's just one more way of big brother looking at you, you know.   Your medical records aren't private anymore, nothing's private anymore."

According to the DEA website more than $20 billion in drug money is smuggled into Mexico every year, making Arizona highways a key part of the drug smuggling equation.