NEW ORLEANS – A high-tech camera that can read the license plates of cars passing by on the street will be coming to the Crescent City next year.

The cameras, already in use in Jefferson Parish, would be used to catch and track criminals fleeing in cars, allowing them to track their moves and hopefully find them quickly.

The department won’t specify where the cameras will be located, but said they would be stationed first in high-traffic areas and crime hot spots.

“Crime is out of control, shootings are up,” said Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell. “We need to be proactive in terms of catching criminals and deterring crime.”

Cantrell stresses that the readers are not for profiling or harassing people on the street, but for tracking vehicles used in crimes.

“It has nothing to do with profiling at all,” she said. “It doesn’t show you who’s in the vehicle, what they’re wearing, their skin color. It’s totally focused on that license plate as well as the make and model of the car.”

Cantrell said it will be a tool in the crime-fighting arsenal that the city so badly needs.

“My constituents are saying that crime is their number one issue. They not only want to feel safe, they want to be safe.”

The department said it will begin phase one of the project by Mardi Gras and the NBA All-Star Weekend.

The cameras, will be spread out around the city.

“It’s not just about a certain area of the city, like the French Quarter,” she said. “We have to keep people safe (there), but we’re (also) looking at New Orleans East, Algiers, Central City, Gentilly and it goes on and on. I think it’s a step in the right direction.”