12/11/2013 13:19 EST | Updated 02/10/2014 05:59 EST

Licence plate scanners: Ontario police expand program

The Ontario Provincial Police will expand the use of vehicle licence plate scanners in a move aimed at catching drivers with suspended licences.

The OPP say 27 new cars — eight in the Greater Toronto Area — will be equipped with back- and forward-facing cameras mounted on police vehicles and able to scan two licence plates per second. The camera instantly sends plate information to an onboard computer, alerting the officer when a driver with a suspended licence is found.

The officer will be also be notified if the plate number is connected to a suspended licence, an expired plate sticker or a stolen vehicle.  

OPP were already using the technology on four cars in a pilot project.

They say drivers who continue to drive after their licence is suspended is a significant problem. More than 250,000 licence suspensions are issued every year and about two per cent of traffic fatalities in Ontario involve a driver with a suspended licence.

OPP Chief Supt. Rick Barnum said suspended drivers are often repeat offenders who assume it's unlikely they will be caught.

"They pose a threat to everyone who shares the road with them," he said Wednesday. "As of today, it's about to get a lot tougher to hide."

The OPP say the technology can scan licence plate numbers from multiple directions, and read up to 25,000 plates in a typical 10-hour shift. The system can even capture plate numbers of vehicles driving at high speed. 

The OPP also say they expanded the licence plate scanning program with the advice of the Ontario privacy commissioner, Ann Cavoukian.

Some have security concerns about how information captured by the cameras is used.

The OPP say the information captured by the cameras is deleted within minutes if it fails to produce a "hit" notifying the officer of a violation