Speed Reading License Plates

Matt Allen asked a good question this evening: would this be acceptable if it does, in fact, focus solely on cars involved in real crimes?

The Police Department is going to try out a new gizmo installed on its cruisers to automatically read motor-vehicle license plates and give officers a quick read-out of whether a plate is on a “hot list.”
The technology, manufactured by ELSAG North America Law Enforcement Systems, is supposed to give officers an advantage in knowing what they may be up against before they get out of the cruisers during a vehicle stop.
ELSAG’s proprietary software searches criminal and motor vehicle databases and alerts an officer to any violations or crimes associated with that plate number.

Let us emphasize, conversely, that if the device is to be utilized as some imaginative minds have projected – to identify delinquent parking ticket recipients – it needs to be deployed in a completely non-discriminatory manner. Let no one be excluded from its watchful eye. Not city employees. Not relatives of the Mayor.
In these matters, egalitarianism is a beautiful thing.

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14 years ago

Please don’t be blinded by the us-vs.-them argument when it comes to “special treatment” afforded to a Democrat mayor and his cronies. This story is about the slow creep of a surveillance state intent on using scare tactics to lull the public into giving up even more of their anonymity.
You know, whatever you see from the side of the road is also in public view and fair game.
Does that mean the police should be allowed to send out cars fixed with cameras to peer into windows just to make sure that no one is doing anything they shouldn’t? Shiny badge’s logic that “it’s just another set of eyes” would seem to suggest yes.
This is not egalitarianism, this is a nanny state

14 years ago

If anyone watches Parking Wars on cable, it’s the very same system and it works quite well.
I just find it very, very odd that the same chief shiny badge and his boss can denounce eVerify because they believe it’s flawed but they’re just fine using a system that uses a proven faulty database.
If anyone has ever watched Caught In Providence (yes, I have no life), there is always 2-3 people per HOUR that are falsely mailed a summons to appear for some parking or moving violation.
So if chief numnuts and our agricultural ambassador to Dubai think this system is just fine, then I want both of them to testify at Brien’s bill before the house this Thursday.
To be honest, if there’s a BOLO on a recent burglary and a plate number is given, then so be it.
But I want to see mayor useless put real time data up on the Sunshine blah-blah website of his where I can see the same data as the officers using the equipment.
How’s that for transparency? I’m far from believing in conspiracy theories that some cop is going to point a camera into my bedroom to see if I’ve removed the tag off my mattress but I am a profound believer in widespread government corruption in Providence.

14 years ago

Though I’m not a proponent of these devices, they may just help solve the problem (whether real or contrived) of racial profiling. It would be interesting however to hear our local activist explain how a camera can, in fact, be racist.

14 years ago

I don’t know why such a big deal is being made of this now. This is not new. I remember about a year ago or more that Providence privatized their boot business. The Projo had an article on it where they said the company had a device where they could just drive by parked cars as fast as 30 mph and scan every visible license plate and find out if the car was boot-worthy. So now the police want to use this technology?
As for the people worried about the Big Brother aspect of this, guess what the police do when driving around in their cars. They enter license plates into the system and see what comes up. Ever hear of someone just driving around, minding their business and not breaking any laws, and then the blue lights come on, only to find out their license or plate is expired? Guess how the cop knew that? He entered the plate into the computer and it popped up. The only difference now is they’re fishing with a net instead of a pole. There’s no invasion of privacy here, everything that’s being scanned is public information, it’s all out there for the world to see.
If you’ve ever had your car stolen and you want it back, you’d be pretty happy if they have this technology and are able to find your car.
If the database is flawed, that’s nothing new, completely irrelevant to the device discussion. Cops entering the plate into the computer are going to end up with the same result. We’ll just see more of them, but now the cops will get tired of wasting their time and maybe push for the database to get updated.

14 years ago

Patrick, I’m 100% behind you and excellent thoughts.
The only problem I see is that the PPD will still be able to override any ‘hits’ on their automatic system.
That is why I would insist on real time data being made available.

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