ICE to Use License Plate Readers to Aid in Investigations

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BROWNSVILLE – The feds are going high-tech to stop smuggling in the Rio Grande Valley.

Immigration Customs Enforcement will now be using a license plate reader database to stop illegal activity on the U.S. side of the border.

The proximity to the border makes it easy for criminals to try and make it across into Mexico.

Investigator JJ Trevino with the Brownsville Police Department said that's why license plate readers are vital here, especially for his Auto Theft Unit.

"Because it's quick, I mean, it's something that it could happen at 8 and by 8:05 it's already at the bridge," Trevino said.

Not all patrol units are equipped with license plate readers, Trevino said, but all officers have access to the state's database if they chose to run someone's plates.

Although they aren't necessarily looking for stolen cars, now ICE agents are counting on license plate reader information.

ICE spokeswoman Dani Bennett, in a statement, tells CHANNEL 5 NEWS they will access license reader information to aid in their investigations. She states:

"Like most other law enforcement agencies, ICE uses information obtained from license plate readers as one tool in support of its investigations. ICE conducts both criminal investigations and civil immigration enforcement investigations. ICE is not seeking to build a license plate reader database..."

According to a study conducted prior, the system will provide information from 25 states and 24 of the most populated metropolitan areas.

Trevino said he's not surprised.

"As technology changes, most departments change along with it," Trevino said.

Although the system will help ICE agents establish leads for their investigations, they will not be allowed to build a case against someone solely based on the information gathered from the database.

It will allow ICE agents to create "alert lists."

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