KPRC 2 Investigates: How license plate readers are being used by HOAs, businesses

License plate readers aren’t just for law enforcement.

Watch the video above to see how license plate readers are now being used by neighborhood HOA’s and businesses to respond to crime

Houston – A tool commonly used by law enforcement agencies to recover stolen cars is also increasingly being used by neighborhood HOA’s and businesses to respond to crime.

License plate readers, specifically the Flock Safety Cameras, have been used by Memorial Villages Police Department to recover a staggering amount of stolen vehicles.

“Before we started using the technology, our organization would recover one to three stolen vehicles a year,” said Memorial Villages Police Chief Ray Schultz. “I am already at 62 for this year and I still have six weeks left.”

RELATED: Influx of temporary paper tags tied to crime, frustrating police

The department has access to 37 license plate reader cameras that scan 3.5 million plates per month.

Not only have they recovered stolen cars, but officers have also recovered 100,000 pieces of mail and packages, as well as, recovered credit cards, stolen property and passports.

More than 100 neighborhood homeowner associations in the Houston area are also using them.

The cameras log everyone who drives in and out, so they have a record of the cars in case of any trouble. The majority of those captured plates belong to law-abiding citizens.

The cameras themselves are relatively cheap because police, HOAs and businesses are leasing the camera for about $2,500. A big neighborhood could be covered for less than $10,000 annually.

This may cause some folks to have privacy concerns.

However, HOAs and others can’t see the car registration information. The cameras read rear license plates so drivers’ identities remain protected, even to the police.

Businesses also use them to help identify the cars of shoplifters and robbers.

This worked in Jersey Village where someone stole over $9,000 in liquor from Specs. That incident led police to uncover more connected crimes and led to an arrest.