Wednesday, December 1, 2010

New East Palo Alto license plate readers will run plates through crime databases

From the Peninsula Press:
By the new year, the East Palo Alto Police Department will be using automatic license plate readers to identify law breakers.

The City Council has agreed to pay for the new devices – including two sets of high-speed cameras and sophisticated computers – with a $37,540 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.
More from the article:
The car-mounted devices can automatically scan all vehicles’ plates within a certain radius of the patrol car, run the information through pre-selected databases and report back immediately to officers if a car is stolen or wanted, according to the East Palo Alto police department. Last year, East Palo Alto tested a license plate reader owned by the San Mateo Sheriff’s Office. Davis said the results were positive.
Police surveillance systems can be controversial. Advocates say they help solve crimes and make people feel safer, especially when residents know the devices are present. Critics worry about invasions of privacy. Most companies that sell traffic cameras and license plate readers recommend that governments advertise the installment of their systems.
Is there really any doubt that these readers will be used to mass scan as many vehicles as possible? What ever happened to probable cause? There are some serious privacy issues here that will undoubtedly be raised as the readers go live.

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