Raleigh Hails Automated License Plate Recognition; ACLU Calls it Profiling

Raleigh, N.C., is using Automated License Plate Recognition–four cameras atop the patrol cars’ lights bar that are capable of scanning in all directions. The cameras are connected to a processor in the trunk that is linked to the computer in the front seat, says the Raleigh News & Observer. The device can scan up to 3,000 license plates in an hour. Along with alerting officers about stolen plates, the devices can assist with other crimes that may involve a suspect vehicle. “It can be used in missing person cases, abduction cases, bank robberies – any crime that is license plate-related,” said police spokesman Jim Sughrue. “It has led to an exponential increase in the number of tags we are able to spot.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina does not oppose the technology, but spokesman Mike Meno says it raises “tremendous privacy issues.” He says: “This is an issue that the national ACLU is looking at because the technology is being used more and more by local police department. The thing that is most troublesome to us is that in most cases the police will retain the data, even if a person is not charged with a crime.” He noted that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department policy states that the scanners can be used to confirm a criminal suspect's alibi regarding his whereabouts at a particular time and date and that the scanners can be used for “predictive purposes,” particularly in “high risk-crime areas” with a focus on “unusual traffic patterns.” “That's profiling,” Meno said.

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