License Plate Readers - A “Real-Time” Tool For Law Enforcement


Most people would agree the chances of solving a crime and catching a felon dramatically increase if law enforcement officials are armed with tools, such as license plate readers, which can scan thousands of license plates and immediately pinpoint stolen vehicles and wanted criminals. These tools, however, do not come without controversy as this Associated Press article demonstrates. Proponents argue they are essential to gathering real-time information, swiftly apprehending felons and solving crimes. The opponents– privacy advocates — believe the use of these tools violate law-abiding citizens’ privacy rights and that the data, if not properly classified and stored, can result in significant privacy breaches.

If police departments are considering installing these helpful and innovative devices in their patrol vehicles, it might be beneficial to address how long the retrieved data can be retained, how it can be shared, in what types of cases or situations police can use the data, and whether it can or should be released to the public.