Camera Scans of Car Plates Are Reshaping Police Inquiries

From the NY Times: License plate readers, once used primarily in counterterrorism, have been transforming how the Police Department conducts traditional investigations. 

“We knew going into it that they would have other obvious benefits,” Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman. said about the use of the readers in the initiative. “Obviously, conventional crime is far more common than terrorism, so it is not surprising that they would have benefits, more frequently, in conventional crime fighting than in terrorism.”

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It will be interesting to follow the privacy implications of this. Is this any different that what an officer can observe standing in the same location as the camera with the naked eye?  The article goes on to list several car thefts and other crimes where the perpetrator was caught through the use of this technology.  As the number of people in our cities increases and budgetary pressures force law enforcement to do more with less, I think the use of technology will expand to fill the gap. Long gone are the days where the local officer knew everyone on his beat.

But  perhaps the more interesting question, is what access can people other than law enforcement get to the database of information?  Can it be subpoenaed for use in a divorce case, say to track someone’s coming and goings?

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