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Officials: License plate photos could help catch illegal immigrants

By Gustavo Valdes, CNN
updated 5:55 PM EDT, Tue July 10, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The database is "widely used" in law enforcement, an official says
  • Images of license plates can be matched with a "hot list" to alert authorities
  • During a six-month trial period, immigration officials made 100 arrests

(CNN) -- The search for illegal immigrants is going high-tech in Texas.

The Dallas office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has asked companies to help design a way to use a national database to find vehicles that fugitive illegal immigrants are driving.

Dani Bennett, a spokeswoman for the agency, described the system as a "widely used mobile law enforcement database tool."

The technology works by tapping into a database of license plate images captured by a national network of cameras, officials said in a federal government document filed earlier this month.

The cameras feed the National Vehicle Location Service, a partnership between law enforcement and private businesses, including car-financing companies.

The cameras are mounted in stationary locations and on police cars in 27 metropolitan areas, scanning and capturing the tags of vehicles and comparing them in real time to a "hot list" set up to alert authorities, the filing said.

"(It) would allow officers to identify the whereabouts of vehicles registered in the system, in order to better locate and apprehend at-large, convicted criminal aliens," Bennett said in a statement.

ICE officials in Dallas are weighing at least two proposals.

During a six-month trial using a system provided by California-based Vigilant Video, the agency made 100 arrests, some of which were believed to be cold cases, officials said.

For now, only the Dallas office is requesting this technology, Bennett said, but other ICE offices could use it in the future.

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