ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - High-tech cameras mounted on a patrol car and designed to spot stolen vehicles scored their first win Tuesday and reunited Megan Gibbons with her Honda.
Gibbons' 1995 Honda Civic was stolen over the weekend.
"I actually ran three laps around my apartment complex to make sure I hadn't parked it somewhere else," Gibbons told KRQE News 13. "I thought it was gone for sure.
"I was very impressed with how quickly they found it."
Albuquerque Police Department Sgt. Lou Heckroth spotted the car in a Motel 6 parking lot off Pan American Freeway NE using the tool he simply calls APD's license plate reader.
The reader employs two cameras secured to the roof of the patrol car. The cameras scan the license plate of virtually every car they see and compare them with a national database of stolen vehicles.
Police have had the tool for a couple of months, but it took a while to test and work out the kinks.
"It'll do it all by itself," Heckroth of the APD auto-theft unit said. "It'll start running these plates as cars pass."
With News 13 aboard and Heckroth at the wheel the device scanned about 350 license plates in two hours.
"I like the fact that an officer doesn't have to be staring down anymore," Heckroth said referring to his onboard computer terminal. "Now I can just have my head up, and I can be looking around for suspicious activity."
Finding Gibbons' Honda was the scanners' first victory. Police expect to find many more.
"If I'm on a freeway and a lot of cars are zipping past, it's just going to pick them up as they go by," Heckroth said. "It can run more license plates than I could ever try to.
"Just by the sheer volume of plates that it's running you're bound to get some hits."
Without the device he might scan 100 license plates in an eight-hour shift, he said.
Albuquerque police now have the scanning system on two squad
cars. Those officers are focusing much of their attention now
on the areas surrounding the New Mexico State