Security officials to scan D.C. area license plates

August 19, 2008

From the AP / WTOP:

Homeland security officials in the Washington area plan to dramatically expand the use of automated license plate readers to prevent possible terrorist attacks.

Officials from Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia have agreed to install 200 license plate readers on police vehicles, at airports and along roads. The plan announced Friday will be funded by federal homeland security grants for the area.

[…]

The readers will scan every license plate that passes by and will run the numbers through federal criminal and terrorist databases.

New York officials recently said they plan to scan license plates of all cars entering Manhattan.

If cameras prevented crime, we wouldn’t see all the footage on the nightly news of the armed gunman robbing the local convenient store. In the best of scenarios, camera footage can be used to investigate crimes that have already occurred. A terrible example of such is the well-known footage of the 9/11 hijackers walking through airport security.

Lets analyze the flawed logic behind DHS’ license plate scanners:

  1. Terrorists do bad things.
  2. Cameras can scan license plates and compare the data to terrorist databases.
  3. Law enforcement can catch terrorists.

Did you catch it? The break in logic happens somewhere between items 1 and 2; if there’s a “terrorist database,” and we know who the terrorists are (and, apparently have their license plate number already), why are we waiting for the plate scanners to pick them up? Why aren’t warrants being issued for the arrest of these suspected terrorists?

Instead of being tough on terrorism, DHS is acting like a kid in a candy store: the gobstoppers and gumballs of technology are sweet and taste really good, but are actually nothing but a bunch of empty calories. And the taxpayers are getting stuck with the cavities.


Follow Up: Plate Recognition Technology

August 18, 2008

From AZFAMILY.com:

Phoenix police officers are patrolling streets with a new secret weapon… It’s an automated license plate reader. Cameras mounted on top of police cars are taking pictures of plates, then comparing them to a database of stolen vehicles. They can read up to 50,000 plates in only a few hours.

Phoenix PD is vague about the automated reader’s capabilities as to whether they are only using it with a stolen vehicle database, or with other “watchlists” such as expired tags, expired registrations, outstanding parking tickets, etc.

Thanks to Mike for bringing this article to our attention in the comments section.


Is plate recognition technology next in the Valley?

August 18, 2008

From The Telegraph:

The latest development in CCTV is the increased use of automatic number plate recognition systems, which read number-plates and search databases for signs that a vehicle has been used in crime.

A national automatic number plate recognition system is maintained by the Association of Chief Police Officers along motorways and main roads. Every number plate picked up by the system is stored in a database with date, time and location for two years.

With almost every intersection in the valley sporting photo radar and red light cameras, it’s feasible for those systems to be linked in the future to a database that logs every license plate read – even those not snapped for a violation. Recent information trickling out of Redflex and ATS indicates that their systems actually record video of all “violations.”

Can you imagine receiving a notice in the mail saying you drove too much last Tuesday? Or how about a kindly reminder sent to you asking you to not drive Scottsdale Road as often? Such scenarios are quite plausible under Arizona’s open embrace with the surveillence society mantra.


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