The St. Joseph Police Department received license plate readers several months ago. Now, that officers are trained, they hope to see results soon.
A car can be more than just a mode of transportation. For some, it's a place to keep memories alive.
"I often pulled my sun visor down in my car. My grandson was killed in August 2010 and I had his picture there and when I'd drive down the highway it was something I'd look at and that was my picture of him," said Wanda McCaulley.
McCaulley drove her SUV for 10 years, and had no plans of trading it in. But a few weeks ago, the unthinkable happened
"When I went out that morning, my vehicle was gone. The only thing left was a little pile of glass and pieces of plastic," said McCaulley.
She says she couldn't shake the unsettling feeling of someone else violating her property.
"It's just like someone taking a piece of me because that was my memories and my thoughts."
McCaulley is just one of many victims coping with a crime like this.
According to the St. Joseph Police Department, there were 349 reported auto thefts in 2012, up from 299 the year before.
Across the nation, law enforcement agencies are increasing efforts to recover stolen vehicles, using license plate readers.
"The license plate reader snaps a picture of the license plate and it instantly runs it to check to see if it's been stolen or lost. It helps us identify cars almost immediately," said Officer Greg Ogdahl with the St. Joseph Police Department.
In three months time, the device read more than 23,000 plates, but didn't result in any arrests.
The technology showed 104 hits for various information entered into the system like sex offenders, stolen plates, gang members and deported felons.
"The system we have now would tell us in a matter of seconds," said Officer Ogdahl.
It gives people like McCaulley hope that stolen vehicles can be recovered.
"You've always got to have hope. But I seriously doubt it. But I'm hopeful. That's all we can be," said McCaulley.
The St. Joseph Police Department doesn't have plans to add any more license plate readers to other patrol cars.
The cameras were paid for by a Homeland Security Grant.