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  (Source: platerecognition.info)
It seems they both walk the fine line of being useful, yet big brother-like

Privacy is a hot issue at present, whether it's regarding online privacy or physical privacy in your home or on the street.

Back in 2007, New York ordered license plate readers that would be placed throughout Lower Manhattan in order to monitor vehicles. Then, in 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union investigated Raleigh, North Carolina's use of license plate scanning equipment to determine whether it violated citizens' privacy rights.

Now, a new report from Kenner, Louisiana says that the Kenner Police Department has been using license plate recognition technology to recover stolen vehicles. According to Kenner police, they've been able to find 80 stolen vehicles over the past seven months alone.

"It's the greatest technology to hit law enforcement in a long time," said Kenner Police Chief Steve Caraway. "Within seconds, police officers get a BOLO, a bulletin on their computer saying stolen Toyota headed westbound on Veterans."

The cameras, which were paid for by grants, provide photographs of the back of the stolen vehicle, and the photo is sent to police computers within 20 seconds. In one particular case, two 16-year-old's and a 19-year-old were arrested at Armstrong International Airport after stealing a SUV from New Orleans six days earlier. Police were able to identify the vehicle through the license plate recognition technology.

But this technology didn't only benefit police as far as stolen vehicles go; it also aided police in murder cases, missing person cases and to track sex offenders.

"We've actually solved a recent murder, where all the witnesses saw was just a blue Toyota Camry leaving a neighborhood," said Caraway.

While this system seems to serve its purpose, I couldn't help but compare the technology to the red-light cameras being placed around the U.S. Many citizens are against such systems saying that they are invasive, and that they have the potential to be abused by law enforcement officers as a way of generating revenue. On the other hand, recent studies found that these red-light cameras can prevent accidents, and enforce good driving behavior (even at intersections without the cameras).

The license plate recognition falls in the same general category of monitoring vehicles and alerting police when something illegal occurs, and it seems as if both systems are working to their full potential. But my question is, does the license plate recognition technology fall into the same realm of being potentially invasive and abused? It seems they both walk the fine line of being useful, yet big brother-like.

In my opinion, I think both are helpful tools in reducing crime and accidents. I don't condone car theft or the running of red lights, and if there is a way of reducing the number of occurrences, I'm all for it. But in the back of my mind, I have to wonder if police could scan a license plate and see who it is, then pull them over based on something illegitimate. Maybe they knew that person and weren't fond of them, so they pull them over. I'm not saying all police officers would do this, but it's a thought.

What's your stance? Are the two traffic-related technologies similar, and do their purposes outweigh the potential to be abused?


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