The devices, hidden in towers that take the form of a cactus, form part of a license plate reader (LPR) system being installed around the wealthy Phoenix suburb. The cameras detect and store license plate numbers of passing cars and compare them to a database of stolen or wanted vehicles. If they match a number on the "hit list," police receive a notification.
Paradise Valley isn't the only city using LPR systems. Nor is it the only one reported to be hiding them from plain sight, as other municipalities and law-enforcement agencies have been known to hide them in traffic barrels, ladders on top of vans, unmarked police cars or even taxi cabs.
Critics and civil liberty activists decry the invasion on citizens' privacy. But officials in Paradise Valley reportedly broke silence on the development only to insist that the system was not yet active, and that its obscurity in faux cacti was more of a convenience and eyesore issue than a deliberate attempt at secrecy.