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Cameras scan license plates in Harlingen

Cameras are up on stop lights around Harlingen, but they're not for catching red-light runners.

Instead, police hope they'll catch criminals and even missing people.

Harlingen Police Chief Thomas Whitten said they work with just one quick scan of your license plate.

"For example the everyday, law-abiding citizen goes through. Nothing happens, Whitten said. If the plate is entered as stolen for example, or if it's an Amber Alert, if we have a plate for a missing child, or a Silver Alert, if we have plate information identifying for a missing elderly person, or registered sex-offenders, for example, it will notify our call center."

Whitten said the cameras are placed at several high-crime areas, such as M street and Lincoln Avenue.

They TMre on 24/7, and can scan 100 license plates per minute.

City Commissioner Jerry Prepechjal hopes the cameras deter crime in his district.

"Recently, about 2 months ago, we had a murder here. The burglary, the stolen (cars), theft, the crime rate in west Harlingen is going up, Prepechjal said. This will be one way to put a check on it."

Whitten said only license plates registered to the National Crime Information Center, or Texas Criminal Information Center will set off an alert.

He said police won TMt have to wait around to respond, because several patrol cars are also armed with the system.

"The (officers) can drive around schools or day cares, and if a registered sex-offender is in the area in violation of the law,we'll be notified and we'll make that stop as well," Whitten said.

Whitten said these cameras are used throughout the country, and if these first few cameras prove successful, he'll push for more.

"If we can find one missing child, or one missing adult, or get a sex-offender out of an area, they're well worth it," Whitten said.

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