Study Shows Police Are Scanning Our License Plates, Keeping Records

Police Scanners

Can you imagine a situation where local police officers across the country are scanning your license plate, and likely have record of where your vehicle has been when they pass it throughout the day? It might sound like a line pulled right out of George Orwell’s “1984” novel, but according to a study from the ACLU, this is a very real practice.

The American Civil Liberties Union study found that cameras at bridges, stoplights and on the backs of police cars are recording the plates of vehicles parked or driving in their vicinity. These records can be kept for weeks or months, and in some cases are retained indefinitely.

As technology evolves and more tools are at the disposal of both criminals and law enforcement agencies, it begs the question– how does this technology affect law-abiding citizens?

Plate Scanner

“There’s just a fundamental question,” according to Catherine Crump, an attorney with the ACLU, “of whether we’re going to live in a society where these dragnet surveillance systems become routine.” The ACLU has proposed that law enforcement agencies immediately delete records that are not directly tied to a crime. Police departments would argue that such information could be vital and, according to Assistant US Attorney, Harvey Eisenberg, the study, “fails to show the real qualitative assistance to public safety and law enforcement.”

The civil liberties organization amassed the study from 26,000 pages of information from 293 police departments, and concludes that only a small number of those recorded resulted in stopping crime. In Maryland, for example, 29 million plates read converted into locating 132 wanted suspects- a return rate of less than one percent.

So what is more important? The privacy of 29 million citizens, or 132 criminals off the streets? This is sure to spark debate, so feel free to take it up in the comments below.

RELATED: New Website Wants Transparency Over Traffic Cameras

Photo Credit: CTPost.com

« Return to Blog Home