Police Use New Crime Fighting Tool

We’ve been hearing about license plate readers for years, but now the technology has taken more than a foothold in the crime fighting world.

California law enforcement officials in the Inland Empire region have deployed an automatic license plate recognition system to help track down fugitives, sex offenders and vehicles associated with Amber Alerts.

This is great news for the security industry, as well as law enforcement.

It gives police near instant access to records of that particular license plate, leading them generally to law breaker, fugitive or suspected criminals. Critics say the device is being used by some to track innocent motorists as well as suspected criminals.

And that opinion is true. What you end up with is a mass surveillance project of the entire population. I don’t like that part of the equation, but it does what it’s supposed to do  -- catch car thieves and vehicles connected with other crimes. Unfortunately, technology that helps keep criminals at bay also costs some personal liberties.

Personal liberties are the very foundation of this country, and we can sing the tune that this is a very low-level intrusion, and all will be well. Surveillance is meant for protection of the innocent and a check against evil-doers.

Fontana, Calif., police have scanned 56,000 plates and recovered a handful of stolen cars in October. What they don’t have is the time and manpower to analyze all the data they have captured. San Bernardino, Calif., police have recovered 59 stolen cars using the license plate reader; 15 people were arrested.

The bottom line is pretty simple. Police use the tool to help them do their jobs better. It helps law enforcement catch people who shouldn’t be on the road in the first place. We all use greater technology to do our jobs better. The same should be said for law enforcement personnel who simply want to do their job at top capacity.

About the Author

Ralph C. Jensen is editor-in-chief of Security Today magazine.

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