Dec 192010
 December 19, 2010  Posted by  Non-U.S., Surveillance, U.S.

Chad Skelton reports:

The Vancouver police department’s plans to use automatic licence-plate readers to track gangsters’ movements could have a real impact on gang violence, according to one of the first U.S. police departments to deploy the technology.

“It’s been great for us and, looking at what they want to do in Vancouver, I think it’ll help them,” said Lt. Mike Wallace, head of Palm Beach County’s Gang Task Force.


Wallace said Palm Beach County – an area of one million people that includes affluent Palm Beach but also a number of rural areas – got its first plate-reader four years ago. At first, the force used it mainly to find stolen vehicles. “But once we understood the technology we thought: There’s more we can do with this,” Wallace said.

Soon, every time police learned gang members would be congregating, such as at a funeral or party, police simply drove one of their tracking-equipped cruisers to the scene and turned it on.

“We’ll take it out and drive around at a funeral for an hour and we’ll get 3,000 to 4,000 numbers,” Wallace said.

Almost immediately, Wallace said, the device started paying off, alerting officers to the presence of gangsters with outstanding arrest warrants. It also helped them discover new gang members who weren’t on their radar.


Wallace said his department hasn’t received much push-back from privacy advocates, despite the fact that it permanently stores all plate numbers the device captures – including those of law-abiding citizens.

Read more in the Montreal Gazette.

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