Automatic licence plate scanners skpic

Officers hear a 'beep' when the licence plate scanner successfully reads a plate and a louder 'boing' sound if it's a suspect vehicle. The devices are installed in 13 police cars in Saskatchewan. (SGI )

Saskatchewan is looking to expand the use of licence plate scanners in police cars.

The provincially owned insurer, SGI, said Tuesday there are now 13 police vehicles across the province equipped with automatic licence plate scanners and the company is planning to buy more of the systems.

RCMP and municipal police officers have been using infra-red technology to scan licence plates for such things as stolen vehicles. When the device detects an issue, an audible alarm sounds inside the patrol car.

Const. Todd Kaufmann RCMP   skpic

Automatic licence plate scanners can be used to get drunk drivers off the roads, RCMP Const. Todd Kaufmann says. (SGI)

Const. Todd Kaufmann, whose White Butte detachment uses the automatic scanners, says they have come in handy at the Craven country music festival, and have allowed the Mounties to track down suspected drunk drivers. 

In such cases, a witness might send police the licence plate number of a suspect, it would be loaded into computer, and the alarm would go off if the suspect vehicle was scanned. 

The scanners can also be used to find unregistered or suspended vehicles, or vehicles registered to people wanted on warrants, he said.

Saskatchewan Government Insurance says it has spent $485,000 on the technology so far and plans to spend more in future.

The technology has come with some controversy as it's rolled out around Canada. In B.C., the RCMP changed the way it handled captured data as a result of privacy concerns.

Meanwhile, licence-plate scanning is not the only use of technology in policing that SGI is expanding.

Later this year, photo radar, where cameras record licence plate numbers of speeders and tickets are sent to registered owners, will be set up at three high-traffic areas.

Those include Circle Drive in Saskatoon, the Ring Road in Regina and Highway 1 at Moose Jaw. That's an expansion from the current use of photo radar at high-risk construction zones.