Automatic Plate Readers

Archangel M

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My dept has had an automatic plate reader for a while now. For those who dont know what that is, its a set of IR cameras mounted on a patrol car and wired to a processor and laptop. The system reads license plates as we drive along the road and alert the officer when it reads a stolen or suspended license plate. It can also be programed to alert on customized databases (local warrants, scofflaws, etc). Reads are stored with a time stamp and geolocation if GPS equiped.

We have been seeing some "yapping" in the press about "big brother" watching and the ilk lately.

There are 2 distinct issues here IMO.

In the read mode, the cameras dont really do anything different from what an officer can do himself. It just does it much quicker. Case law ( U.S. v. Walraven, New York: People v. Ceballos, Rhode Island: State v. Bjerke..and more) has clearly stated that an officer needs no PC to simply run a license plate, there is no expectation of privacy for a license plate on a vehicle that is in plain view or on the public road. The information the officer is legaly allowed to obtain from the plate is limited and there are limits on what he can do with the data he IS allowed, but I can type in all the plates I want as I patrol. All the plate reader does is "run plates" for me at a much faster rate and higher volume...only alerting me when necessary.

The second issue, where there may be a valid concern, is the storing and handling of plates that are captured. The keeping of a plate number with its time and location is not a problem IMO, what has to be watched is what is done with that data....if a plate associated with a crime pops up, then searching that database is a great tool. Where people have concers is what the police are doing with the info. There are currently stringent rules regarding police intelligence files. 28 Code of Federal Regulations Part 23 have clearly defined rules regarding this. Retaining information in intelligence files about an individual is improper if there is no sustainable evidence of his or her criminal involvement unless that information is used only as noncriminal identifying information and is labeled as such.

Does anybody else have these cameras in their areas? What are your thoughts on them?



 

Gordon Nore

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I'm not an LEO, nor have I heard of this technology. Here there was some concern about remote cameras shooting pictures of plates and issuing tickets based on that. In this instance, the officer is in the car. The reader is enabling him/her to focus on driving and paying attention to other things going on besides reading plates. It seems an effictient and safe measure.
 

Tez3

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when you use it and you get info back does it include whether or not the driver is insured or not? Ours does plus whether it's taxed, I know you don't have road tax but here if it's not taxed the insurance is invalid. Ours also gives the info on who the registered owner of the vehicle is.
People whinge about tax and insurance here but it's no fun if you hit by an uninsured driver.
We also have speed cameras both static and hand held that will automatically record speed and if over the speed limit will generate a ticket to be sent to the registered owner automatically.
 

Bill Mattocks

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I don't see a problem with it. Driving a car is not a right, it's a privilege. License plates must be displayed on the vehicle, and you are right, it makes no difference whether a person or a machine is reading the plate. This is not an example of 'big brotherism', IMHO.
 

jks9199

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One catch regarding 28 CFR 23; it only applies to federally funded interjurisdictional databases. My department, at it's own cost, can maintain a database for internal use only that contains information that wouldn't fit with 28 CFR 23. (In fact, most agencies do this with their Records Management Systems.)

But I think plate readers are a great tool. I know that the auto theft guys have had a lot of luck recovering stolen vehicles, and they've been used in some intel ops as well.

Tez -- insurance information depends on what the state puts into the registration file. Some states do, some states don't. Remember that in some ways, each state in the US is more like a different country, with their own ways of doing things...
 

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I see absolutely no problem in having the cameras read information real time and alerting the officer to issues. What I do have a problem with is if that information is recorded and stored and kept for any reason. There is absolutely no reason that law enforcement, or government needs to have a database with GPS locations for vehicles and any given time of the day.
 

jks9199

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I see absolutely no problem in having the cameras read information real time and alerting the officer to issues. What I do have a problem with is if that information is recorded and stored and kept for any reason. There is absolutely no reason that law enforcement, or government needs to have a database with GPS locations for vehicles and any given time of the day.
Here's one scenario:

While you're at work today, your car is stolen. You walk out, ready to go home... and your car is gone! You call the cops, they take the report, do all the appropriate investigative steps... and enter the car into the databases as stolen. An automatic query into the tags run today (including those run by the tag reader) returns a delayed hit. It'd suck to know the car was somewhere -- but not have a clue where that may be, huh?

If the records are held for a relatively short period, with controls on who can access them and why, then it serves a pretty good purpose while balancing privacy concerns. Which is what 28 CFR 23 is all about; balancing the legitimate intelligence collection needs with the equally legitimate privacy concerns.
 

Bill Mattocks

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What I do have a problem with is if that information is recorded and stored and kept for any reason. There is absolutely no reason that law enforcement, or government needs to have a database with GPS locations for vehicles and any given time of the day.

Strange as it may seem, I have no objection to a database of that sort. You are in public, so you have no legal expectation of privacy. It's not really unlike those toll readers that you can buy an EZ-Pass for now - you pass through, they note it, law enforcement can access it. It may seem onerous, but you are in public and can be seen - it's no different than if a bunch of concerned citizens kept watch on the comings and goings of a person and kept track of that info in a database.

On the other hand, recent experiments with GPS units in cars that keep track of everywhere you go and report back to government databases so you can be taxed (or tracked) do offend me.

The difference? One is casual and nearly accidental - if you're seen by police, you might get a tag thrown into a database saying your car was here on this date at this time - or not. The other tracks everywhere you go, all the time.

I think the difference is one of degree.
 

LuckyKBoxer

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Here's one scenario:

While you're at work today, your car is stolen. You walk out, ready to go home... and your car is gone! You call the cops, they take the report, do all the appropriate investigative steps... and enter the car into the databases as stolen. An automatic query into the tags run today (including those run by the tag reader) returns a delayed hit. It'd suck to know the car was somewhere -- but not have a clue where that may be, huh?

If the records are held for a relatively short period, with controls on who can access them and why, then it serves a pretty good purpose while balancing privacy concerns. Which is what 28 CFR 23 is all about; balancing the legitimate intelligence collection needs with the equally legitimate privacy concerns.

I am not worried about my car getting stolen. If it does then so be it. I have insurance to cover it, do not keep anything irreplacable in the car, and can replace it. The hassle I would have will be there regardless. I just see there being a big opportunity for misuse here, although I think there are probably many more easy ways now to track someone without their knowledge, or maintain a database of their comings and goings on computer then having this, so /shrug
 

LuckyKBoxer

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Strange as it may seem, I have no objection to a database of that sort. You are in public, so you have no legal expectation of privacy. It's not really unlike those toll readers that you can buy an EZ-Pass for now - you pass through, they note it, law enforcement can access it. It may seem onerous, but you are in public and can be seen - it's no different than if a bunch of concerned citizens kept watch on the comings and goings of a person and kept track of that info in a database.

On the other hand, recent experiments with GPS units in cars that keep track of everywhere you go and report back to government databases so you can be taxed (or tracked) do offend me.

The difference? One is casual and nearly accidental - if you're seen by police, you might get a tag thrown into a database saying your car was here on this date at this time - or not. The other tracks everywhere you go, all the time.

I think the difference is one of degree.

I view the ez pass as voluntary, I just have a problem with any type of monitoring for the average person. Too many ways it can be misused, accessed for personal use, etc.
But like I said there are already too many devices that can be used to accomplish the same thing and alot easier. It just seems like another small step for government to take in a long line of small steps towards removing every single last bit of freedom and individuality from this country.
 

Bill Mattocks

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I view the ez pass as voluntary, I just have a problem with any type of monitoring for the average person. Too many ways it can be misused, accessed for personal use, etc.
But like I said there are already too many devices that can be used to accomplish the same thing and alot easier. It just seems like another small step for government to take in a long line of small steps towards removing every single last bit of freedom and individuality from this country.

I see your point, I don't disagree by much. I think the random plate-reading is about the same as random DUI checkpoint - a hassle, but probably legal. Could it be misused? Yes, I imagine it could.

I'm more worried about monitoring that begins FROM my car instead of OF my car. But I think we're on the same track, basically.
 

Gordon Nore

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I see your point, I don't disagree by much. I think the random plate-reading is about the same as random DUI checkpoint - a hassle, but probably legal. Could it be misused? Yes, I imagine it could.

I'm more worried about monitoring that begins FROM my car instead of OF my car. But I think we're on the same track, basically.

Agreed. When that reader scans my plate, it could be that the car has been reported stolen. This is another tool law enforcement has to protect my interests.

Clarification: Is this device scanning everything in front of it, or does the officer aim or activate the reader?
 
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Archangel M

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Agreed. When that reader scans my plate, it could be that the car has been reported stolen. This is another tool law enforcement has to protect my interests.

Clarification: Is this device scanning everything in front of it, or does the officer aim or activate the reader?

It's totally automatic. Which is a plus..it eliminates any accusations of "the officer only ran my plate because I'm..."

In regards to the database. I dont see there being any legal issue with it "as is"...because its just a table of plate numbers, dates/times and locations. Any legal issues would most likely arise when the police begin accessing personal information from the plates (an additional step they would have to take themselves)...as long as they are accessing that data for a legit purpose it should be OK.

Much like if we had satellite photos...it would all be publicly displayed data. Storing it probably wouldnt be an issue..but if we were able to see plates and just started collecting data on you for no legit reason..that would be illegal.

As an aside...while there are many people who express legitimate concerns about gvt. cameras watching us (and I applaud them). I also think that there is a sizable number of people who could care less about our privacy, they are only pissed off because they think that any system that can catch them breaking the law is "unfair". I have heard opinions that imply that if the cop isnt able to catch the wrongdoer, that cameras doing it is some sort of "rules violation". lol!
 
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Thesemindz

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I'm against it.

I know, shocker right?

Driving a car is a right, even if governments would like to reclassify it as a priviledge. I have the right to freely travel and locomote as long as I don't interfere with the rights of others. Scanning the plates of everyone who drives past you casts an assumption of guilt upon those people. Arguing that because some people may be lawbreakers means all people must be closely watched is unjust, but it is precisely the kind of thinking that much of our govermental policy is based around.

Sure, some people are uninsured. They are irresponsible. That doesn't justify the state making insurance mandatory, which has been proven to raise rates and lower product quality. Some motorists may drive stolen cars, that doesn't justify checking every motorist to make sure his car is being driven legally. This is no different than stopping every motorist and demanding that he prove he owns the vehicle he is in, is operating it legally, and he has a right to be there. The justification is just that this is less intrusive.

But in reality, it is just as intrusive, it is just a less cumbersome system. The practice assumes that some people are doing something illegal, and so is inflicted upon all people in an effort to catch the statistical minority who may be breaking the law.

Laws which are unjust and immoral anyway.


-Rob
 

Bill Mattocks

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Driving a car is a right, even if governments would like to reclassify it as a priviledge. I have the right to freely travel and locomote as long as I don't interfere with the rights of others.

You do have the right to travel. The courts have not seen fit to agree that this means your right to drive cannot be restricted. If you feel differently, good luck challenging that assertion in court.
 

Thesemindz

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You do have the right to travel. The courts have not seen fit to agree that this means your right to drive cannot be restricted. If you feel differently, good luck challenging that assertion in court.

Of course. After all, if it fails to stand in our justice system, it's clearly incorrect.

Now law and order, on the other hand
The state provides us for the public good;
That's why there's instant justice on demand
And safety in every neighborhood.

-David Freedman
Anarchy is not Chaos


-Rob
 

Thesemindz

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Whatever happened to my right to an assumption of innocence? This technology puts the burden of proving innocence on the person being scanned, instead of on the state.

I have the right to be innocent until proven guilty. That means I don't have to prove my car isn't stolen, the state has to prove it is. I don't have to prove I have insurance, the state has to prove I don't. I don't have to prove I have the right to be here, the state has to prove I don't.

But of course, anyone who has been in traffic court knows that's not how it works at all. You are accused of a crime, and you have to prove your innocence, not the other way around.

And that's called justice.


-Rob
 

jks9199

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I'm against it.

I know, shocker right?

Driving a car is a right, even if governments would like to reclassify it as a priviledge. I have the right to freely travel and locomote as long as I don't interfere with the rights of others. Scanning the plates of everyone who drives past you casts an assumption of guilt upon those people. Arguing that because some people may be lawbreakers means all people must be closely watched is unjust, but it is precisely the kind of thinking that much of our govermental policy is based around.

Sure, some people are uninsured. They are irresponsible. That doesn't justify the state making insurance mandatory, which has been proven to raise rates and lower product quality. Some motorists may drive stolen cars, that doesn't justify checking every motorist to make sure his car is being driven legally. This is no different than stopping every motorist and demanding that he prove he owns the vehicle he is in, is operating it legally, and he has a right to be there. The justification is just that this is less intrusive.

But in reality, it is just as intrusive, it is just a less cumbersome system. The practice assumes that some people are doing something illegal, and so is inflicted upon all people in an effort to catch the statistical minority who may be breaking the law.

Laws which are unjust and immoral anyway.


-Rob
Sorry, you're wrong.

Traveling and moving freely within the United States is a right.

The privilege to legally operate a motor vehicle on the highways is not a right; it's a license granted by the state after you have demonstrated appropriate skill/knowledge and (often) financial responsibility. You do acquire certain ownership rights in that privilege, once granted, which is why there are various processes for taking someone's license away.
 

jks9199

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Whatever happened to my right to an assumption of innocence? This technology puts the burden of proving innocence on the person being scanned, instead of on the state.

I have the right to be innocent until proven guilty. That means I don't have to prove my car isn't stolen, the state has to prove it is. I don't have to prove I have insurance, the state has to prove I don't. I don't have to prove I have the right to be here, the state has to prove I don't.

But of course, anyone who has been in traffic court knows that's not how it works at all. You are accused of a crime, and you have to prove your innocence, not the other way around.

And that's called justice.


-Rob
I disagree. Considering the many hours I've spent in traffic, as well as criminal, courts in multiple jurisdictions -- I think I speak from experience.

Yes, the police officer has some inherent advantages. He often has a reputation with the judge (this is not always good; there are a few officers I know who the judges are highly critical of their case prep...). He actually knows the laws (or should; again, there are exceptions); many people do not, and therefore don't know what they are arguing. And he's got a lot more experience being in court. But I've been in front of judges who were clearly biased towards defendants, as well as judges who were clearly pro-police, so long as the officer wasn't slow with his answers. And a few who were just plain nuts... and you never knew what way they were going to jump. But, by a large majority, most of the judges I've been in front of have been pretty fair.
 
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