Police Tracking Your Every Move With License Plate Readers

Is a law enforcement aid worth sacrificing personal liberties?

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Police Tracking Your Every Move With License Plate Readers
[ Technology]

Privacy. It’s on everyone’s minds these days. A couple of months ago it was Apple and Google that were drawing the ire of consumers with the storing of location data. And of course, Facebook is always mentioned when people discuss their concerns about online privacy. But as technology gets better, and the tools used to capture information and the databases used to store and disseminate the information become more capable, the lines between online and offline privacy continue to blur.

On that note, let’s say that you are having a Sunday afternoon picnic with your child. The weather’s good, you’ve been running around and playing – but now it’s time for lunch. You open up the cooler, only to discover that you’ve left a couple of the sandwiches in the car. The car’s just a few yards away, so you quickly run to grab the sandwiches.

And in a split second, you look back to see that your child is gone. You catch a black sedan speeding away and you are barely able to catch the license plate. Because you caught that license plate, police are able to search a giant database of plate captures and track the movements of the kidnapper.

A classic question: What is more important, public safety or personal freedom? What are you willing to sacrifice? Let us know in the comments.

Ok, I know this whole scenario seems a little bit Without A Trace or Lifetime movie-esque, but the point is that police were able to use an ever-expanding database of data culled from license plate snapshots in order to generate real-time location information. That’s a reality, and it’s happening in our nation’s capital, among other places.

The Washington Post is reporting that police in D.C. are beefing up the area covered by license plate cameras. More than 250 cameras in D.C. and its suburbs are constantly hard at work, grabbing license plate numbers and sticking them into databases. The police aren’t exactly doing this quietly, but it’s being done with “virtually no public debate.”

The highest concentration of these plate readers in the entire nation exists in D.C. (one reader per square mile), so that means that District police are building the biggest location database based on license plates in the whole country.

Let’s take a brief look at these license plate readers.

First, these are apparently different types of cameras than the cameras cities have been affixing near stoplights and other places to catch people running red lights or speeding – the “here’s a ticket 2 weeks later in the mail” cameras.

These plate readers cost about $20,000 each and can snatch images of numbers and letters on cars traveling nearly 150 mph and across four lanes of traffic. These plate readers in D.C. take 1,800 images per minute, every one of which is stored in a database.

Basically, these plate readers have made it possible for police to track everyone’s movements as they move across the city.

These plate readers and the subsequent database of image captures has tipped the privacy concerns of some – notably the American Civil Liberties Union. One of their main concerns is naturally the privacy implications.

In the District, laws are in place that limit the amount of time that surveillance camera footage can be kept. The images must be dumped after 10 days, unless there is an actual investigatory reason to keep them. But right now, there is nothing keeping data from the plate readers from being stored for years.

The ACLU says that this database is storing the location data of innocent people. And they are right. The plate readers are casting an all-inclusive net, grabbing license plate numbers indiscriminately.

Clearly this technology is rapidly approaching the point where it could be used to reconstruct the entire movements of any individual vehicle. As we have argued in the context of GPS tracking that level of intrusion on private life is something that the police should not be able to engage in without a warrant.

Let’s think back to the slightly-stylized child abduction scene from the beginning of this article. Maybe that seems a bit far-fetched, but the reality of the situation is that the plate reader database has helped police. According to the D.C. police department, they make an arrest a day with the help of the plate readers. In a four month period this year, they also found 51 stolen cars.

And although our child abduction story above might seem unrealistic, the possibilities are there for the plate readers to help in truly significant ways. Police could track cars to and from murder scenes or use it to identify players in organized crime circles like sex trafficking – by logging which cars travel between certain locations.

But the fact that the technology is beneficial or could be beneficial in terms of law enforcement does not assuage concerns of a “surveillance society” becoming the norm in the U.S. It’s a classic argument that pits personal liberties against security and safety. Just how much of your freedom are you able to give up to feel safer? This is a crucial debate that we’ve seen play out most recently after 9/11 with the Patriot Act.

The ACLU channels Minority Report to discuss preemptive law enforcement:

Of course, if the police track all of us all the time, there is no doubt that will help to solve some crimes — just as it would no doubt help solve some crimes if they could read everybody’s e-mail and install cameras in everybody’s homes. But in a free society, we don’t let the police watch over us just because we might do something wrong. That is not the balance struck by our Constitution and is not the balance we should strike in our policymaking.

Obviously, the plate readers are a valuable tool for the police, and there are an abundance of situations where one could imagine the searchable database of plate captures to be extremely useful. But are those plate readers building up a database that’s just a little too full of innocent people’s location information for your liking?

If this kind of thing is to proliferate (both in D.C. and across the country), it is argued that it needs to see the light of day. Basically, society should have time to debate its merits and discuss their concerns. “The police should not be able to run out and buy a new technology and put it in place before anybody realizes what’s going on,” says Jay Stanley of the ACLU’s Privacy and Technology Program.

What do you think about the expansion of the plate reader technology? Do the benefits outweigh the privacy and personal freedom concerns? Or is this an example of big brother yielding too much power with the ability to catalog this data without warrants? Let us know in the comments.

Police Tracking Your Every Move With License Plate Readers
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  • Steven

    I honestly do not care if something is recording my license plate and even if the pictures are kept indefinitely if it’s for law enforcement purposes. If you report your car stolen and then a license plate camera catches your car crossing an intersection and alerts the police, or if some kid is kidnapped and the car is spotted by a camera that’s what the cameras should be for. Imagine how many stolen cars could be returned, and how many kidnapped kids could be saved. Let’s not even forget when somebody tells you they weren’t at the scene of a crime and they have what appears to be a rock solid alibi except the fact that a license plate camera caught their car driving by the scene of the crime they said they were nowhere near that night.

    • http://ebayFLOWERSFORLOVE Eric

      It is also very usful in other cercumsatnces see my post regards Eric

      • wordmaster

        So what you are saying is that you will willingly give up freedom to obtain a small amount of safety? Sounds like you need to move to a nice safe communist dictatorship somewhere. You know, the kind that such surveilance of your every move will help to bring about…

        • http://www.facebook.com/airllusion AIRLLUSION

          Yes, wordmaster, this is how the sheeple are made. “PLEASE, Mr Government, make me safe, take my rights to do it, just save me.” No need for Big Brother, the world is full of Little Brothers. Don’t get to know your neighbor, just narc on them when you think they are suspicious, by YOUR LIFE STANDARDS! This is the teeny eeny tip of the iceberg. It’s a great time to be alive because by the time things really suck, us believers in freedom will all be dead. the99declaration dot org

        • Joe

          Freedom? What are you doing that you are afraid that others know? You sound like many that claim red-light cameras are all about the money for the municipal governments, yet you deface your license plate (removing reflective backing) so you won’t be caught by the cameras when you break the law and put other people’s lives at risk with your reckless driving.

          • Earl

            Well Joe, I haven’t had a traffic violation in over 14 years, and I still don’t like the “red light cameras”. But here we aren’t talking about the “red light cameras” that are triggered only if you run the light. Here we are talking about tracking your movements forever. Wake up, it isn’t the picture, the camera takes a picture that translate the plate into a data number, time and place, which is then correlated with the DMVs, MVAs, etc. and a log created for each plate. And, I just don’t trust the Government, any Government, that does that. Reminds me of the Stasi or the KGB or greater NKVD (if you have heard of them…I think the Stasi were the best at just making people disappear). Just a bit more intrusive than what any government should ever be. And if we allow this, what next, putting a camera in your front and back yard, how about your bedroom, living room, and bathrooms (hey, the all have windows, so there is no expectation of privacy there). And Oh, let’s get the audio feed also. And do all this with no search warrant. Oh, and lets just pay everyone to watch and report on everyone else (this sounds like Stasi). As the Stasi would say: We will keep the government and everyone safe by watching them all the time. And, we all know what happened when the Gestapo, Stasi, NKVD/KGB were allowed to run unchecked (if you don’t know, there were no freedoms). My concern is where will it stop.

    • Nature Bag

      See other posts about how easy it is for clever criminals to manipulate the license plate data and produce “rock solid” evidence that an innocent person in fact is guilty.

  • http://www.lipu-china.com fine crusher

    If you report your car stolen and then a license plate camera catches your car crossing an intersection and alerts the police, or if some kid is kidnapped and the car is spotted by a camera that’s what the cameras should be for

    • wordmaster

      Are you so naive as to believe that is all they will be used for?

      • Joe

        Ha ha ha. For some people, it is always 1984 and 9/11/01 was faked and chemtrails are real and the Illuminati exists and vampires are real . . .

        • Josh

          In a democracy, in THIS democracy (which is really a Plutocracy), the issue is not haha, look at all the non-existant conspiracies, it is keeping vigilant that WE (the people, the 99%, the ) maintain a balance between wants of those that have obtained power and influence, and those that have not. Democracy is the ingenious system that has provided a method for those without power and wealth to have a voice in the society. If you really think that those who currently have power and wealth have YOUR (or even the society’s) best interests in mind, I would strongly disagree. Even so, would you eschew all your rights to that 1% in perpetuity?

          In my view, it IS 1984 and although not a conspiracy advocate, I do believe it is in the best interest of us ALL to be informed (educated) and vigilant: Nobody advocates for less of what they have, or in this society their right to have more. Not the 1% and not the 99%. Few are altruistic or patriotic enough to be able to think down the road for what is better for this society. Those that do have been attacked viciously by political and economic interests.

  • Gords Site

    I don`t mind. If it`s used as a deterrent to crime,
    I`m all for it.

    • Nature Bag

      Gords, I don’t mind that you are an innocent victim of a prosecutor looking for an easy villain to charge. Because you’ve willingly allowed it to happen by being obsessed with “crime.”

  • http://ebayFLOWERSFORLOVE Eric

    Here in the UK we have been using plate reconition for quite some time where it has prooved to be very usful and a benifit to us all is catching uninsured motorists. At one time we had over 2mil unisured motorists which was estimated to cost each law abiding deiver an average of $75 extra on their insurance payment. We have a national data base of all cars and when you take out car insurance your insurer must register your vechile insured.The police cross reference your plate No to this data base, no insurance arrested, car impounded, will cost you ÂŁ300 fine plus at least $450 to get it back, you must show that you now have insurance for the car, 14 days in which to do this.
    If you dont do this within the 14 days your car is crushed dosn’t matter how much the car is worth! It is now estimated the is approx 1.5mil uninsured drivers, and my car insuranse costs was $31 less this year. I rest my case.

    • Nature Bag

      It seems you’ve state how much you value your freedom: it can be sold for $75 per insurance payment.

      • http://www.quote-4.me.uk Matt

        Yes, here in the UK, it’s not used to track stolen vehicles or abducted children. Why would they when this costs money? Instead, it’s used to check up on whether you have paid your insurance and your road tax.

  • monty

    If americans want to give up there privacy to the criminals who run the government then they SHOULD (NOT) have any! It is that watchers who should BEWATCHED

  • http://www.peaceful-portugal.com Gail

    ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) has been around for quite some time, it’s not as if someone is going to be sitting at a desk thinking hmmm…let’s see where Mr Smith’s been today! It’s being use to track cars for a specific reason, stolen, hit and run etc. The camaras are capturing thousands if not millions of records per day and I for one think it’s a good thing, if it stops even one child from being abducted it’s worth it

    • http://www.facebook.com/airllusion AIRLLUSION

      Then maybe folks like you should just all put microchips in their children and leave the rest of our license plates alone.

      • chris

        good one

    • John

      That’s like saying that making a nuclear warhead is okay because it’s only going to be used by the good guys for the right purposes. Don’t be so naive. Onstar is a device that can be used to be very helpful in many instances, but it can also be used for eavesdropping in on conversations. And guess what?? It has been used by the FBI for that purpose. So I guess you would say that it’s all right if the government listens in on all of our conversations because it just might can less than 1% of us talking about committing a crime. Then the police can be prepared and will be able to stop it. Right?? That would certainly make it okay for them to being listening in on your private conversations your having with either your friends or family in the privacy of your own vehicle. Right? I mean, if it’s going to help catch less than 1% of the potential criminals? That’s ridiculous. Going about this in this fashion is exactly what they used to do in the former Soviet Union. Treating all of us like criminals to catch few who are. Obviously, you don’t understand what freedom is all about. This isn’t just a matter of privacy and whether or not you have something to hide. It’s about giving up your freedom to not be stalked by your government so they can control every single move you make. This definitely crosses the line. Besides, if you want to keep your children from being abducted and harmed, you can tag them with a GPS monitor so that you can know where they are at all times without tracking the entire population. As far as stolen vehicles, there are also GPS tracking devices for that as well. There is no need to be able to track everyone in the world unless you wanted to control them. There’s a lot of different ways to skin a cat and there are a lot of different ways you can control crime without invading a citizen’s right to privacy.

      • Joe

        You are naive to think that every tool will be misused by “big brother” and that a GPS device for every child is a better tool. There are multiple tools to be used to keep our children safe and find lawbreakers. There are also tools and organizations that ensure these other tools are not misused by “big brother” and they are called the Supreme Court, the ACLU, etc. I have always found that only those that are regularly breaking the law are the ones so paranoid that these tools will be used by the government. What are you unlawfully doing that you are so paranoid about these cameras?

        • chris

          hey dummy, study your history. GOVERNMENTS have murdered more people than all mass murder individuals combined. You want the government to watch your back? you and the brain dead like you make me sick

        • Earl

          Good Comment Chris. If a government has a tool, they WILL use and abuse it. History has proven this time and again. And, for something to hit the SC, you are talking about years (unless it has a huge politcal agenda like the new health care law). So don’t expect help from that area. By the time the SC gets it, heck, you could have been Gitmo for years, if not a decade for what you didn’t do. And, then there would be the devil trying to get you back to American soil.

  • Ray

    Wow what a great topic for debate. Unfortunately one of many that lawmakers and citizens don’t really choose to debate but silently accept.

    I was an investigator for corporations some years ago and many companies were constantly investigating employees on the job. Theft, fraud, and embezzlement were regular occurrences as well as dealing and doing drugs on the job. There you are working for someone and taking a paycheck home. They are looking out for their investment in you and in the company so I can accept that as long as it doesn’t involve one’s personal life.

    Govt., in its guise as protector, is increasingly pushing the envelope about what they have a right to know about you. As long as the technology exits someone will exploit it. Govt. is not a moral environment, in and of itself. It is comprised of people willing to stretch the bonds of personal liberty in order to gain control.

    Can there be benefits, of course. Will there be plenty of downside, of course. Unfortunately the silent erosion of personal freedoms has stripped away much of what we once held dear. Each successive generation will have a threshold of increased acceptance as they won’t have a comparison.

    We pride ourselves on freedom but other countries have far more freedom to come and go without govt. inspection. We have the idiot terrorists, of a particular religion, to thank, in large part, for giving the govt. carte blanche to do engage its citizenry in such a openly covert fashion.

    • http://www.laymanwebdesign.com Obdurate

      You’re absolutely right. And, as we’ve already seen, government doesn’t really even use these tools until AFTER there’s a problem.

      They make us pay more to have these things added on to the things we buy under the guise of keeping us safe. But the reality is the only thing that will keep us safe is a moral society.

      The end result is all of these things only keep the honest people honest.

    • Nature Bag

      Of a particular religion? Do you mean Christianity? Remember Oklahoma City.

      • chris

        staged by the government to take more rights away, eric holder was involved with that one. cia mind control doctor was the ‘bombers’ prison physician.

  • Tod

    I don’t believe the cameras tracking people is such a bad thing. Afterall, if you are not up to illegal activity then what do you have to worry about? Personally if the Police want to waste their time tracking me going to and from a Supermarket then who cares? I certainly don’t. Especially if they help to catch people who are abducting children or others to save lives.

    • wordmaster

      With our homeland security director saying gun owners and people with conservative stickers on their car are highly likely to be terrorists, instead of watching to see if you are going to the supermarket, what if they are watching to see if you are going to a tea party meeting or if you are going to a gun store or if you are going to a republican meeting or if you are going to a church? What if they are using it to identify those bible toting, gun toting conservative terrorists? Yes, you may not be doing anything against the law, but are you, in the eyes of a far too powerful government doing something they don’t like?

    • Nature Bag

      You will care when fate casts you into a situation where the pressure is on to solve a crime & you are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    • John

      Really?? Well, let me say this to you. If you want your children protected from kidnappers, then tag them with a GPS monitor or sensor. You can buy them at any electronic store or online. That way you know where your kids are and they will be able to be found, quickly, without invading my privacy. All I’m saying is there are a hundred different ways to skin a cat and there are a 100 different ways to protect citizens from crime without invading the privacy of everyone to protect us from the few. Believe me, if you give the government the right to do this, they will use it for the wrong reasons until they are caught and told not to. It’s happened before and it will happen again. It’s just human nature. This is a slippery slope that we cannot allow to continue. This is a matter of freedom and I’m not willing to give up my freedom for the off chance that someone else’s child might be abducted. Especially, when there are a lot of other things a parent can do to protect them.

    • chris

      Sure, until maybe you look at somebody wrong that just happened to be a government insider that put your name on the murder list. You probably didn’t know that interpol can now snatch up anybody they want and keep it a complete secret. You probably want more check points too so you can be molested by some pedophile tsa agent. submit dummy

      • chris

        that was to tod by the way

    • Fran

      Hey Tod, isn’t that about what the Jews said right before Hitler and the Holocaust came around? What is ‘legal’ today may not be tomorrow. What is considered ‘acceptable’ today may mark you as a ‘terrorist’ tomorrow. I put quotes around certain words because their meaning changes fairly quickly these days and may change even more quickly in the future. I am a decorated veteran, a Christian, and believe in the Constitution. Thirty years ago that would mark me as a good citizen, today I may be on a terrorist watch list according to the Government!

  • http://www.roque.co.uk Tony

    There are much more mundane uses for these cameras, here in the UK for instance we use them for journey time planning, they track the route and time taken across the city and can alter traffic lights to ease congestion. We also use them to discourage polluting vehicles entering London. Any truck that fails the exhaust emission tests and then enters the Low Emission Zone, gets a hefty charge.

    Lets have more I say.

  • http://www.blakeman.net/_VA Van

    Very good article and question. For the reasons you mentioned, and more, I think this is absolutely necessary; it will save a lot of lives and losses. I hope it can also be used to track potential bomb makers and those intent on mass destruction, especially across borders, because their technologies are also improving.

    The few cops that abuse this privaledge will not get away with it because our technology is also constantly improving – such as the UC Davis guard and his pepper spray caught on an iPhone – or those that use their tasers to excess. They can no longer get away with the abuses that were common among local cops before these technologies existed.

    So, from both sides, technology is making things much better or all of us all the way around.

    • Nature Bag

      I wish I could be that optimistic. Cops now routinely charge citizens legally using their cameras for “interference with official acts” when they don’t want dissemination of police behavior. And the problem goes beyond the cops themselves as their allies, the prosecutors, not only back them, they also pressure them to be even more aggressive in producing “evidence” to obtain convictions.

    • John

      Your right. Now the cops just won’t taser or pepper spray you in public. They just wait to get you back to the police station and do it then. Don’t think I’m right? Just get arrested and see if this doesn’t happen. Cops are still just as crooked and abusive as they’ve always been. And FYI: That cop at UC Davis was just following orders give by the Dean of that school. There are a million different ways to track criminal behavior without violating the privacy of millions of people to do it. And anyone who tells you differently is just in favor of being able to control the entire population. Look, stalking is illegal. It’s illegal for me to constantly watch you at all times and it should be illegal for the government to do so as well no matter what they say their “intentions” are.

  • http://www.jtzenterprise.com John

    Unfortunately, this article and the ACLU is a little late. Private repo companies utilize plate recognition to locate skips. Car dealers install gps units that not only tell them where the car is but also where it has been. This information is not something I want to trust my car dealer nor my bank with but one or both will often make it a condition of the sale. It is a question as to whether or not they even have to notify you. How is that for invasion of privacy?

  • http://www.laymanwebdesign.com Obdurate

    Here we go – creating another BS scenario in order to convince the general public that it’s worthwhile to let law enforcement track your every move.

    Here’s the issue – the only job of our local government is to keep us safe from the predators. The reason why they can’t is because of the groups like the Civil Liberties Union and their failure to understand that once you’ve commited a crime, oncce you’ve deprived another human being of their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happines, you’ve forfeited your rights.

    This scenario you’ve provided is the same reason why our children are overweight, why we can’t even let them out of our sight for more than a few moments. It’s the reason why we don’t have very many independent thinkers, or people who will take initiative.

    The pedophiles, the predators, the thieves, need to be locked up. The DWI offenders who have killed other human beings need to be locked up.

    The justice system has trained people that there are no consequences and the governments answer is always – give us more control.

    The real problem is that government has too much control already. So much that they can’t even manage the things they are responsible for. They blame the private sector for the Bernie Madoff’s when it’s the SEC who was sleeping on the job. They blame the banks for the housing crisis when it was FNMA and FHLMC who created the environment for NINJA loans.

    When the justice system starts punishing the offenders, then the rest of us won’t have to be convinced that it’s a good thing to surrender your rights.

    “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

    When they start tagging my license plate to track my every move, that will be the reason I start riding a bicycle.

  • Khabir

    I see this as being more beneficial than intrusive i.e. it can also work to someone’s advantage. The innocent can verify their vehicle movements with the footage as well – which may prove their innocence if they are ever accused of being involved in a crime somewhere else – or at least their vehicles’ involvement. I think the good outweighs the bad; if the police have my vehicle movement, so what?

    • John

      Okay, what happens when someone takes your vehicle without you knowing it and commits a crime. Then since they have your license number and are tagging your vehicle they throw you in jail instead of the guilty person? Look, stalking is stalking. And stalking is illegal as it should be. Private citizens do not have the right to watch every single move of another individual and neither should the government no matter what they say their “intentions” are.

  • Tom

    The more we allow government to intrude upon our personal and private lives, the less privacy we have. It appears many here feel that their safety is more important than their privacy. I disagree. Whenever there is information, there are people who will use that information to control others. Our government has a terrible record when it comes to keeping data private. I see this database being leaked to large corporations and others who will use the information to commit crimes. To those in the UK: it’s only a matter of time before the data is in the hands of power mongers and psychopaths, looking to harm the innocent. Most police officers are apathetic and/or ignorant on data privacy issues. Since Police officers are running this show, we can be assured there will be misuses of this information.

    • Nature Bag

      “Leaking” is not the right word. Because of the corruption in law enforcement, the more appropriate word is “selling.” From my many years of experience observing cops I think you are being kind to them when you accuse them of apathy or ignorance. It’s really about their “brotherhood” & a short-sited view of how to protect the power of that brotherhood, which results from “training” & internal intimidation.

    • John

      And not only that…with this information sitting in an electronic database, what stops a criminal/terrorist/psychopath/kidnapper or even a stalker from hacking into this database and using the information for their own personal gain? This could create a whole new type of crime that we would be needed protecting against. What would stop a terrorist from hacking into this information to track the location of a government vehicle so that they can plot an attack? Look, information is control and control is power. The person or group with the most power wins the game. This is a slippery slope we don’t want to be on. And to say that this is okay is a slap in the face of all the brave men and women who fought for this country and are right to freedom for centuries.

  • Anonymous

    Well this may be a bit tongue in cheek but with this shiny new technology now big brother can just track us instead of randomly stopping us for “alcohol” checks. Now they won’t have to ask us “Where are you coming from? Where are you going? What have you been doing? Have you been drinking?” at these random alcohol checks. (and yes this did happen and they really did question us without cause at a random check) And they won’t have to shine the flashlight in our face that detects if there is alcohol on our breath when we answer their interrogating questions. I mean really, think about it! They won’t have to ask us where we’ve been! They’ll already know! Brilliant big brother. Truly brilliant!

    “Those who would give up Essential Liberty
    to purchase a little Temporary Safety,
    deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
    ~~Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father.

    • Rick

      I can’t see why more people don’t agree with you. I guess they have drank the Cool-Aid.

      What a dumbed down nation we are.

  • http://www.identifind.com Lauri

    I feel this is a good thing. The only ones that need to worry about it are those that might be conducting illegal activity.
    Just think .. whenever we shop, stores have cameras following us and no ones objected to that! The grocery stores have plastic cards to use for discounts when we check out .. those stores are using our shopping habits in a data base to track our purchases and no ones objected to that!

    • wordmaster

      It makes me sick to read through these comments and see how many people are ready to give up their freedoms if it means a possibility that the government will offer them some level of safety. We obviously have far too many people who are unwilling to accept that they need to be responsible for their own individual safety. Far too many who think they should only put all their faith in the government watching over their every move and letting the government nannies take care of them from the womb to the tomb. Sickening things to any real freedom loving American.

      • Nature Bag

        And don’t forget that one of our basic freedoms, the press, is as important as law enforcement in creating & reaping the benefits of making citizens feel insecure.

  • jay

    I am sick and tired of listening to STUPID PEOPLE who think their government is for them. We are just cattle in the field… For all you people who are for this kind of invasion, please leave America and move to Iran, you would be so happy there. 60% of Americans have a below average IQ and the government knows this. That’s how they get by with this Bullshit… Wake up AMERICA! Quit letting them control you with fear.

  • Pat

    I have no problem with license plate readers. Those who have something to hide should. In these difficult times, honest people need all the help they can get.

  • http://none Name

    Not good.

    the data base too big for just a minimal impact

    what is the procent for be useful to me in my entire life….
    to have child . or car stolen or ather to need the lost of my privacy (life)

  • Dorothy

    The “fear” of the police invading my right to privacy by having the movements of my vehicle, which by law is already tagged for identification by law enforcement is minimal. The massive amount of data being collected in D.C. means that the only license plates that will be traced are those connected to a known crime i.e., a stolen car, a kidnapped child. It really is no different than having a policeman on every corner watching for a stolen car’s license plate. The officer would see many other cars, but wouldn’t pay any attention. Of course, we aren’t willing to pay for a policeman on every corner, so the surveillance equipment does the job. It seems like a smart move in our society that is growing in numbers, but not funding more police presence.

    • Nature Bag

      It’s not so much not being willing to pay for a cop on every corner (as you can see in today’s New York City — although they tend to congregate with each other rather than dispersing so that they actually have a more widespread presence).

    • Name

      The police at the corner is ok, but the impact of the pulls is not seen…when they have a surveillance equipment

  • Ted

    This is a bad idea!

  • http://berkshire-driving-school.co.uk John Silvester

    An elderly relative disappeared a few years ago. His distraught wife called the Police. They were able to locate his car and inform the concerned lady that he was safe and well and driving in Central London. Fortunately the confused old gentleman recognised the location and was able to drive home safely after an absence lasting several hours. If you are up to no good, you are bound to object to these cameras. The rest of us would consider them to be safety devices.

  • dadofnine

    I have no problem with this. The ACLU’s arguments aren’t consistent. Capturing a license plate on a public roadway is drastically different than cameras in my home. Be reasonable. The purpose is for safety – not that they care where law abiding citizens drive.

    • Nature Bag

      The excuse is for safety, not the result. The insecurity that brings the demand for “safety” is deliberately created by government & mass media for their own selfish interests.

  • http://www.pplayingcards.com Playing cards

    Even after tracking everything, round the world it has been a problem for law enforcing agencies to keep a check on untoward incidents and attacks happening, howmuch will this move help, is yet to be seen.

    Good luck to all of us, as we need more luck than them.

  • Carlton overton

    At some point we need to put the responsibility where it belongs. Parents should be responsible for their on kids safety- The problem today is to many parents are neglecting their responsibility as parents, for whatever reason. The law enforcement has enough to deal with .I am not saying this tag thing would not help, but you have to wonder if at some point would this tactic be a disadvantage to you as a private citizen. If we are not careful we will end up giving the government far to much power. Maybe even to the point of no return. Let us as citizens take more priority on the safety of our own children,or the government will end up assuming that we are not capable of handling our own responsibilities, Believe it or not this is how Russia became a dictatorship country years ago. I don’t know about you but i prefer not to end up a communist country, and if we are not careful that’s exactly where we are headed. So i say no to the tag invasion.

    • Nature Bag

      My experience in “communist” countries in recent years has been that their is less intrusion into private lives.

  • Chad

    I am absolutely disgusted by the surprising number of people here who have no concern for Liberty or Freedom.

    Has no one read 1984? It is here and now.

  • http://www.antellus.com T Moore

    It seems to me that it was inevitable. ‘Minority Report’ is science fiction, not fact, and with television shows like ‘Person of Interest’ bringing up the question of “how far does this machine go?” in tracking the lives of everyone in its scope, it does not seem credible to try to interfere in the normal progress of an individual. However, if the practice is simply to track scofflaws and not law-abiding citizens I don’t mind a license plate tracker. My advice for people who question this technique is to consider, “if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime,” and you’ll never have to worry about it.

    • Nature Bag

      You should also add the advice of staying hidden at home with your doors locked so that they need to work really hard to fabricate information against you when fate puts you into the position of being a convenient target when a crime must be solved.

  • Doreyne

    The benefits of the program outweigh the loss of privacy. I wish they had cameras all over Oakland where I live. Video evidence would be a huge help to police in keeping our streets safe. There’s a place to draw the line in the privacy vs. safety debate, but this isn’t it.

    • Carlton O

      Just plain ignorant to say the least.

  • http://www.melchinger.com John Melchinger

    There is raw data, then filtered and sorted data, then evidence and intelligence extrapolated from the filtered and sorted data.

    One federal law can fix this, stating that this specific captured data can be stored for 10 days maximum (or some fixed timeframe) and then must be discarded to the point that it is not retrievable; that data taken within this period must first have a warrant citing reason and suspicion (immediate situatons such as kidnapping, bank robbery, etc. may be warranted within 24 hours after the fact); that evidence and intelligence taken from the data has a shelf life that lasts one year and needs another warrant to be held longer; and that violations of this law are felonies punishable by no less than two years imprisonment and no more than 10 years for each count/violation.

    Any law holds its value through enforcement, and this law should be a high priority for third party enforcement. I would encourage empowering the FCC with the task and the means to enforce this and other relaetd communications violations, including news media illegally tapping into assumed private communications connections and devices.

    • frank devenney

      Some of what you say is true, but should we then not bring it to it’s proper conclusion, install cameras in board rooms, tag politicians, monitor all bank officials, and only allow laws to be passed on recorded details, with voice recognition etc,?

  • http://www.ssrichardmontgomery.com ron

    London UK has cameras everywhere I the area I live in south London I think there are 200+ not just for traffic but for crime prevention. Many were caught by them during the recent riots and looting. In central London there are probably more cameras then anywhere else originally used for congestion charge ( toll charge for cars) now also used for anti terrorist surveillance and street crime. The people who they are looking for wear hoods or baseball caps so are difficult to spot also changing your cap or dark glasses or whatever after going in a shop and coming out another door does not help them. People with cars for crime clone other car number plates of same make and year of car drive to no camera spot & change plates do crime & then change back near first spot saying car was parked. This happened to a friend recently but the police took one look at him & car and said they knew it was not him, but he was lucky did not look like wanted persons and had alibi. So the freedom loss has to be balanced against crime reduction but as I am not a criminal all for it as makes everybody safer, but if I decide to change sides for “the big job” it wont make any difference to me odds wise (grin) as it does not with the pros.( This is a JOKE for Americans reading, some of my work is security related & have installed many cameras!)

    • Nature Bag

      Perhaps your law enforcement industry deserves greater respect than that in the USA.

  • Andy

    Read Nineteen Eighty-Four. Read real-life histories of oppressive police states. Do an online search for police corruption and law enforcement officers being investigated and convicted here in America. It’s much easier to set some one up if you know where they are and were.

    This goes back to the argument about unwarranted searches. Many people are upset that if the police search a home illegally, even if they find illegal material they can’t use it court. That doesn’t seem right.

    But the reason for those prohibitions is because without them police could enter anyone’s home at any time or search anyone anywhere at any time.

    In addition, many people here still seem to have the assumption that the police are “the good guys.” Sure, some police are honorable and do help people. I’ve been helped by police.

    On the other hand, I was involved in a case where a helpful federal investigator told me that the police “will plant evidence.” He didn’t say “might,” he said “will.” It was a big, expensive case so we checked and they did. We found things we had never seen before in what they “returned” to us. Fortunately we were prepared and were able to destroy it before they could do another search and “find” it.

    Police are under high pressure to put together a case to convict a suspect. Sometimes they believe they know someone’s guilty, but can’t find evidence. If they have a record of your location with your license plate, so much the better. They can simply plant a little evidence, just enough to make an arrest. Then they can do a search and find the real evidence they can use in court.

    The problem is, sometimes they’re wrong. They discover they have arrested an innocent person based on evidence they planted. Are they going to be motivated to confess what they did and ruin their career and get themselves arrested? Or are they just going to keep quiet and let an innocent person be convicted?

    Do an online search for “police plant evidence” or “police planted evidence.” And how many police officers planted it who didn’t get reported by other police officers?

  • http://www.essexportal.co.uk/ Jon

    This is why I leave my car parked near the police station and then take my bike out instead. :)

  • http://grumpycat.org Suzanne

    In these times there is little justification for this overkill effort to solve crimes that might often be committed because of people being in increasingly dire straights. The prisons are packed (25% of the criminals in the world are in American Prisons). Stop taking and using taxpayers’ money to trap them and put it where it can help people. How can the police sift through 6000 cars going through
    an intersection after a crime and pick the culprit anyway? How many intersections do they have to cover for one crime. All that encircle the crime scene I suppose. How about some community building instead.

  • John

    The problem is not the cameras, it’s the databases. I always assumed that the authorities would look out for wanted license plates – I never realized they were keeping databases of images. In the example you cited, all the police need to do is add the license plate to the list of wanted plates and the next camera that observes it will flag it. There’s no need to store the images or movements of vehicles that are not being sought.

  • wordmaster

    I will take care of watching out for my safety. The focus of government should be to insure my freedom and privacy, not to “take care” of me. We don’t need a less intrusive government, we need a NON-intrusive government.

  • Nature Bag

    The police are increasingly out of control, following their own agenda rather than serving the public that pays them. Some have bragged to me in recent years that 9-11 was the opening of a big door for a major power grab by “law enforcement” in terms of control, money & empire-building.

    Previously they were essentially immune from any penalties for breaking the law, including murder. This immunity continues & in many instances has been expanded. Now add to that virtually unlimited supplies of public money for whatever amuses them as long as it is in the context of public safety. Remember that money & power inevitably increases corruption.

    For years our biggest real threat has been the military-industrial complex. We are moving towards the place where police & imaginary “security” will be our biggest fundamental problem.

    It sickens me to see police cameras moving into spying on citizens even in small U.S. communities. It’s all the police cameras that have made me want to stay away from Australia & Great Britain in recent years.

    I am sad that America’s young people will live in a police state. But I am happy that I had the opportunity to live a long life of innocence & relative freedom, even though I now realize that what we were taught about our history was largely false and certainly misleading.

    • http://www.goodtydingsconstruction.com Really?


      • samuel meek

        well who you going to call to protect you when your own government come for you our yours to do with you and yours what they have decided to do to help you
        understand that they know what is best for you

  • http://www.LocalBusinessPageOne.com Randy

    I believe in less government and less police and greater personal freedom with the ability to defend oneself and belongings with deadly force.

    ANY type of surveillance must be approved by an org like the ACLU and the information kept for no longer than a certain number of days. I do not want my every move recorded by any organization for if we allow these cameras (and smart meters) that will only be the start of the slippery slope and we will find more cameras in more places recording our movements.

    And if anyone thinks this will not be used against you or used to coerce your cooperation in any number of situations you’ll be sorely mistaken. History is rife with the misuse of the collection of this type of information.

  • Luara

    Definitely public safety is more important. I have been hit by a driver with no license and insurance and it’s too costly to use the old methods of tracking. I think the same with regard to searches etc when bomb and terrorism are a threat. I wouldn’t mind being searched if I fit the profile.

    • Nature Bag

      Will you mind spending a few years in jail when the pressure is on to solve a crime & you are an easy target?

  • http://www.goodtydingsconstruction.com Shelby

    What privacy? Your plate is on the back of your car for the world to see. There are so many cars on the road that they are not going to track everyone. A plate # would have to be entered into the system to get the information. It’s not like they are going to be sitting around tracking where Joe the plumber is going. Besides, their plates are being recorded too.

    • Nature Bag

      With their bloated budgets, thanks to public insecurity, some have plenty of time to sit around & track whatever they wish.

  • samuel meek

    well every thing has 2 or more uses ,some good ,some negative,I see a real possibility for abuse,so how do you set up a way to control the people in a free society,A question — back at the start of this nation if the king of England,had been able to know where all the people were at at any time ,I think we would still be sending our tea tax to Him
    this looks small but think about this ,to bring about a police state in a free society it is done one little piece at a time. But not to worry once the Government finds an excuse to declare marshal law they will take care of us and give us what ever they decide we need ..BOY just can’t wait

  • G. Chris

    Being as I value my freedoms and liberty just about more than anything else and considering we live in a virtual police state (USA) already I oppose this kind of detrimental police activity. We the People are constantly being told by the cops–the self proclaimed heroes–that it is necessary to give up our freedoms in order for them to, serve and protect us…to which I say, bullshit! The cops do NOT serve and protect—they enforce laws!…some of which are not even lawful, according to the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Viva Libertad!

  • Ken

    The only true deterrent to crime is education. When people have emotional problems growing up, they should be addressed and dealt with, instead of ignored and swept under a rug somewhere. Society allows uneducated people to turn criminal by not educating them and when these uneducated people become adults, they commit crimes because they have a lack of something that they should have been given provided with during adolescence. Our society is so messed up that schools are fairly worthless, based only on rules and regulations that have nothing to do with why we go to school in the first place. And after these ignorant people grow up and commit a crime against you or me, they get locked up and rehabilitated? Geez, they can’t figure out how to educate us in the first place, so what makes them think that they can fix an emotionally messed up person after they’ve grown up? We need to monitor our educational systems better and make sure that people don’t turn to crime in the first place. But nobody really gives a damn about people anyway, just as long as they don’t come and try to take something away from us or hurt us in some way. Police always think that they are the solution to everything, but they only serve the rich. When you support them, you are also only serving the rich, just like the government does. More laws won’t fix anything!

    • samuel meek

      well I think you overlooked a small thing or two this law enforcement system we now have is one big money making machine
      you think not ?? well who supports all the needs of these people in our jails –tax payers — who gets the fines ??,,court costs
      money taken from criminals , it just goes in to the big law enforcement machine probation is real good we put people back on the street then collect money from them every month — well that is convenient ,now you can go and sell more drugs –girl’s sell there body for money — so what has changed — well now they just pay another pimp — on top of the pimps & drug lords that they already pay — so the big enforcement machine becomes there NEW PIMP does the money repay any taxpayer ??? no just goes to perpetuate the the big money machine

    • Nature Bag

      Rehabilitation? That’s an interesting concept. Another fiction of the law enforcement industry. The aim is punishment because that’s what our culture has come to believe is effective. It is rare for U.S. prisons to even provide training on how to live productive lives after release or deal with substance (a)buse which is at the root of the majority of the incarcerations.

  • M. Cameron

    In the UK this has been in operation for years, as a result they car all those un-insured vehicle users, stolen cars etc. When you walk around London you are recorded dozens of times every day. Whats the problem if you are not a criminal. As a law enforcement tool, it’s brilliant. You just need to watch the TV traffic pursuits of drunks, druggies, and plain idiots killing innocent families by the hundreds every single day. Wait till these bleeding hearts “do gooders” have one of their loved ones killed, then watch the change in attitude. Unfortunately it doesn’t happen to those people often enough to make them wake up.

    • Nature Bag

      Can’t speak about the UK, but in USA the bleeding heart do-gooders, unless they have powerful law enforcement connections, are not immune to being innocent victims of our pursuit of the impossible to achieve concept of absolute safety.

  • http://420love.net Joe

    This just shows how dirty they are.We have a major gang problem in this coutry.The worst part is there is nothing we can do about it.They get to do pretty much whatever they want with no backlash.You can’t call the Cops they are the COPS.They are the largest street gang in the world.They lie cheat and steal ever chance they get.They twist the rules every chance they get,but if you where to do the same thing they would throw you in jail for years.I really miss living in a FREE country……….Our gov thinks we are stupid and blind.We need to keep our eyes open and look around.We are the frogs float in the pot and the water is starting to boil.

  • H.B Pattskyn

    I think that the comparrison to CCTV cameras on the streets to “just setting up cameras in your home” is like comparing apples to oranges–if it even comes that close. When we are talking about what I do in the privacy of my own home, and with whom I do it, we are talking about just that: privacy. I’m in my house, on which I pay taxes, my windows are closed, I’m minding my own business. Theoretically, no one can see what I’m doing but those whom I invite into my home.

    What I do out on the public streets is not private, however, it is public. Anyone walking by can see if I run a stop light, if I exceed the speed limit or commit some other crime. If “anyone” can see it, why is it somehow wrong for there to be a camera there to catch me on film? It’s not like I was hiding my actions, I was out in public.

    I firmly believe the benefit of tracking our PUBLIC movements far outweighs panicked cries of Big Brother watching over us.

    But then again, I don’t have anything to hide.

  • Watching You Anyway

    In my opinion, anyone who thinks for a second that this or similar technology is and will only be used for the law enforcement purposes stated publicly are at best absolutely naive and disillusioned.

    These naive are the same people (or sheep) that by their willful compliance encourage the stripping away of everyone else’s Constitutional Rights based on some hypothetical situation or an idea instigated through the rhetoric of fear-mongering.

    This is exactly how the Patriot Act and similar legislation has come to see the light of day in this country. Legislation such as this has you naive believing that you’ve traded your Constitutional Rights for safety and security but it is only allure since the government cares nothing of you, your family, your rights, safety, or security.

    The only thing you should fear is the passive behavior for which you’ve engaged in the past that has enabled such things as the Patriot Act and this rhetoric of fear to become prevalent in our society to the point at which it has altered how you live your life in a supposed free society. Stop living in fear people and believing the hype the government and its law enforcement agencies forces down your throats.

    Maurice Fitzpatrick

  • http://rainbow-websites.com Lydia Shelley

    The problem is police and government, not cameras. I’d love to see cameras everywhere, but not manned by “the man”! Instead, it would be great if the cameras were available for EVERYONE to watch and look at… how many crimes could be prevented if bored people who just happened to be watching a given camera could alert the residents nearest that camera that a burglary/robbery/assault etc. were about to take place? Cameras are also our best defense against the police state. If you are ever involved in any situation with police or other “authority” figures, make sure you have one or more cameras rolling, even if it’s just our cell phone. It also helps to upload frequently, in case your device is confiscated…

    • Nature Bag

      Problem is the cops can charge you with interfering with their activities if they don’t want you taking their images. Even if you dispute the charge & are found innocent, they have accomplished what they want.

      I might like the concept that says, OK, put cameras everywhere, but make the images available to everyone. Of course there always will be those who don’t like you & will report a crime if they see you doing anything they don’t like regardless of whether it’s a crime.

  • greg

    I and others have no reason to hide. I also understand that driving is not a right it’s a privilege. Cameras in homes – NO! Parking lots, highways, expressways, main city roads, parks…. can help but then again how far will it really go. Instead of cameras would it be better to employ more law enforcement?

  • Bob Wagner

    People are worried about their freedom as if the government having their information will suddenly hinder them from doing anything! Come off it, what freedom is being hindered? What are you afraid of losing? You have the internet so someone is already tracking you. I guess you don’t have a credit/debit card, rewards card, GPS, cell phone, never give out your social Security number and you pay everything with cash? Doubtful. Exactly what freedom are you so worried about losing that you haven’t already given away?

  • http://www.malpracticeinsurancecost.org Malpractice Insurance Cost

    Why worry about the license plate readers when you can go here and get a can? www . phantomplate . com

    I have never tried this and probably will not, but found this on a site of a respected friend on the net and am just passing this information along…..

    • http://www.ssrichardmontgomery.com ron

      Re: www . phantomplate . com this stuff works for flash from speed trap cameras with intense light (only at night). but not from static normal recording ones, as no light to reflect beyond ambient at time photograph or recording taken day or night.

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