For years, police in Hudson County have utilized Automatic License Plate Readers as a crime solving tool that can provide leads for a variety of cases. The ALPR devices are mounted on police vehicles, road signs or traffic lights and capture thousands of computer-readable images of license plates everyday on vehicles within city limits and sometimes beyond. These images allow law enforcement to compare plate numbers against plates of stolen cars or cars driven by individuals wanted on criminal charges, accordingly to the National Conference of State Legislatures. During the process, the time and location are logged and the information is stored in a searchable database that can be accessed when police are investigating a crime.
Some residents feel that the use of this technology is a privacy issue. Some believe the information may be used incorrectly or may be inaccurate. And some are concerned it may be shared without restrictions or in the system for longer than necessary. But this technology is nothing more than what police have been doing for decades, logging general information into a database. Contrary to the common misconception, the databases do not log personal information such as the names of the registered owners. This information is only available by accessing a Department of Motor Vehicle database — which is only allowed under specific permissible purposes outlined by the federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, according to Doug Wyllie, PoliceOne Editor in Chief. Groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have put LPRs in their crosshairs, pressing for legislation at the state, local, and federal level, which may soon endanger the future of LPRs, Wyllie wrote in a recent article.
Industry experts, such as Brian Shockley, Vice President of Marketing of Vigilant Solutions, are educating the public that such arguments against LPRs are like comparing apples to oranges, according to PoliceOne. “This technology is not used for dark and nefarious reasons and it does not infiltrate the private lives of everyday citizens. The actions of law enforcement ultimately will prove our case in the court of public opinion and illustrate the true benefits of LPR.”
The Tenth Amendment Center has been encouraging states to take action on ALPR restrictions in order to cut off the ability of federal agencies to add information to a nationwide motorist tracking databases, the newspaper.com wrote. “No ALPR data means no license plate tracking program,” the group’s spokesman, Mike Maharrey, said. “More importantly, this limits government power and advances liberty on both the state and national level.”
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