It's a new, high-tech way to detect stolen vehicles. Winnipeg police have unveiled a new tool designed to reduce the number of stolen vehicles in the city. 

It's called the Automatic Licence Plate Recognition System.

Installed in cruiser cars, the device can identify between 400 and 500 licence plates an hour. Detective Sgt. Kevin Kavitch of the Stolen Auto Unit said it can do what no human being can.

"You could have a lane of traffic coming at you, six [vehicles] in a row," he explained to CTV Crimewatch reporter Kelly Dehn. "It's going to pick-off all six vehicles within a matter of seconds. It's physically impossible for an officer to do."

The system atomically scans plate numbers. All those numbers are cross-checked against a data-base of stolen cars. If a vehicle turns out to be stolen, officers can take action.

Device may reduce theft numbers

Last year auto theft numbers in Winnipeg decreased 30 per cent from the year before.

Now there's hope this new system, combined with other measures such as electronic immobilizers, will help reduce those numbers even more.

"Combine those two together and the numbers should drop," said Brian Smiley of Manitoba Public Insurance.

The new device also has a camera mounted on the side of the cruiser cars, so that it can scan plates as police drive through parking lots.

However, the best case scenario is to catch thieves behind the wheel of stolen automobiles.

"If we catch them in the act, especially if it's high risk offenders, the chances of them remaining in custody go up because they're caught for a new offence," said Detective Sgt. Kevin Kavitch.

Under the right conditions, the scanner can also capture images of the driver inside the car. The images can become air tight evidence in court that can help lock up auto thieves.

Police have purchased one of the units for $48,000. The unit will be shared by several cruiser cars.

With a story from CTV's Kelly Dehn