The latest license plate scanners in California belong to the Lomita CA Sheriff’s department. There is a nice picture of the unit (right) in the article that hints at the impressive capabilities of these systems.
The license plate scanner is able to identify and track 1000 vehicles an hour by using three camera systems mounted on the police vehicle. It can scan and identify vehicle license plates while parked stationary by the side of the road, or moving rapidly down the highway.
When a vehicle with a known license plate and associated legal issue is spotted by the system, the officer in the vehicle is instantly alerted with an audible beeping tone.
Currently, these license plate scanning systems in California and nationwide are most commonly used to locate stolen cars. Vehicles that have been registered in the database as stolen are matched on the spot, in real time. A sheriff’s or police cruisers equipped with these license tag scanner systems just has to be within camera range. The driver of a stolen vehicle is quickly caught and arrested, and the vehicle is impounded, and ultimately returned to it’s owner. Stolen car recover percentages are expected to significantly increase due to these systems
These scanners can be used to identify vehicles or drivers with a variety of legal issues, from active “Amber Alerts”, to the locations of registered sex offenders, and whether they are keeping a legal distance from schools and playgrounds as required by law and the terms of their probation and release.
Other common uses for these scanners in California include identifying outstanding criminal warrants for failure to appear in court, or people whose drivers licenses are under suspension. The system can easily be adapted by cities and towns to flag cars with too many parking or traffic tickets.
The most disturbing element of this technology may be it’s capacity for massive data gathering. By matching license plate data and storing the GPS location, date and time, these systems are capturing and storing data on millions of law abiding citizens. As different police and sheriff’s department across California and nationwide are sharing these data, the government is essentially tracking your movements. Where your car has been spotted at any time in the past can be accessed.
The government will use this for data mining experiments to determine patterns of traffic and behavior. Some uses will be to flag houses that have significant visitor patterns that could suggest drug sales going on at that location.
Ultimately, this data can be combined and used in extremely intrusive ways. Constitutional law and civil liberties have yet to catch up to and defend citizens from this near constant spying surveillance. The use of this technology will require careful scrutiny.
If you are charged with any criminal offense in California, please contact our attorneys for a free case evaluation.