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State tells City of St. Louis to remove license plate readers

ST. LOUIS – The State of Missouri is telling St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department to remove devices from roads that help cops catch criminals.

Crews removed license plate readers Monday morning at the intersection of Washington Avenue and Memorial.

Patrick McKenna, the director of the Missouri Department of Transportation, told St. Louis authorities to take down license plate readers. At least two intersections were involved, including the one at Cass and Interstate 70.

The license plate readers quickly send information to the police department's Real Time Crime Center. Police said in just two years, the readers have helped make 149 arrests. One of the arrested was a man who was convicted of 15 robberies in downtown St. Louis.  One of the license plate readers that's being removed caught that suspect.

City officials said the state instructed St. Louis to remove all equipment where the state owns the right of way, even though there was a memorandum of understanding with the former MoDOT director, who permitted those readers to remain in place.

MoDOT Director McKenna said under the state constitution, MoDOT does not have the right to give permission to police to put those readers on stoplights and that, if it happens, it could open the transportation agency to lawsuits.

"It’s not a statement about the technology itself or its usefulness for law enforcement. We don’t have the authority to provide access to the state highway system for that purpose that’s the bottom line," McKenna said.

He said if people want the license plate readers in place they need to call their legislators in Jefferson City and get things changed.