Thursday, June 23, 2011

License Plate Reader technology helps find stolen vehicles

Sgt. Julio Valcarcel wheels his unmarked sport utility vehicle south onto U.S. 1 in Jessup as motorists whiz by in the opposite direction. The Maryland state trooper is not looking to ticket speeders, but rather is on the hunt for stolen cars.

And he doesn't have to consult a 'hot sheet' to compare license plate numbers, or even remember the make, model and color of vehicles on the stolen-car list.

Images of license plates pop onto his laptop computer screen as the cars go by. An alarms sounds when the computer finds a stolen plate or car, or even a revoked or suspended registration, information stored in a database updated daily by the FBI and the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration.
Now I'm wondering where in this article (if anywhere) they bring up potential privacy concerns...nearly two-thirds of the way through:
As the license plate readers become more widely used — even by parking lot owners to help people find their cars — so does the scrutiny. Privacy groups have raised concerns over law enforcement running plate numbers and collecting the data from people not suspected of breaking the law.

"We see no problem as long as the information is can be used legitimately, and used for narrowly tailored purposes" said Meredith Curtis, a spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland.

Curtis said her group is more concerned with the way the data is kept. "Police are not supposed to be keeping files on people who are not breaking the law," she said.
And here's the kicker:
Valcarcel said police agencies typically keep the information for up to a year before removing it from the system.
Yes, police agencies in Maryland typically store scanned license plates for a year, even if you're not suspected of anything!

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