HAZLETON -- Automated license plate readers will certainly become more prevalent next year once registration stickers are eliminated.
Police in Hazleton gave us a firsthand look at how the readers work to find lapsed registrations and much more.
With PennDOT eliminating registration stickers at the end of the year, police departments throughout the commonwealth will soon need license plate readers to tell if a car is legally registered and up to date on that registration.
"It's faster than I am, a lot faster, instantaneous, with reading a license plate," said Hazleton Police Officer Mario Howey.
The readers can process the license plate of almost every car that passes by.
The Hazleton Police Department has had one for several years.
Officer Mario Howey took us for a ride to show us how just what the device can do. Within a few minutes, the system alerted Officer Howey to a half dozen cars that had passed by with expired registrations.
The license plate reader is synced to a computer inside the patrol car. It takes a picture of a car that passes by, scans the license plate, and in a split second runs the plate number through several databases.
The officer then knows not only whether the car has an expired registration, but also if it's stolen, if the owner is wanted, or even if it's linked to a missing person.
"I can be watching people on the street, I can be watching other things, I can definitely be watching where I am going. This will alert me visually and audibly."
While it will likely be another year before more police in Pennsylvania utilize license plate readers like these, drivers still have mixed feelings about them.
"They'll catch more criminals. I think so, anyway," said Gloria Skapik of Hazleton.
"I think it's a good thing in the sense that it's going to help police," said Walter Wilkus of Hazleton. "But on the other hand, it is a bit of invasion of your privacy. I mean how far are they willing to go?"
The electronic readers are not perfect. During our ride along with Hazleton police, we learned that any time that the system says a car's registration is outdated, the police officer still has to radio in and double check before issuing a ticket.