Nov 022014
 November 2, 2014  Posted by  Surveillance, U.S.

Back in February, I noted a report filed by the Vermont State Police on their collection and use of license plate data from automatic license plate readers. In September, Vermont Public Radio followed up in a report that noted:

Despite the financial investment in the systems, they were helpful in solving fewer than five crimes in 2013. The number of tickets written for driving with a suspended license and driving with an expired registration (two violations that ALPRs can detect) hasn’t gone up since the technology was introduced in mid-2009. comments:

Cops nationwide tell us they need license plate readers to solve crimes, but in Vermont it seems like what police are mostly doing is keeping records of the movements of millions of innocent people.

So at what point does a technology that seemed to offer a useful tool in crime-fighting become not worth the investment, and how do we weigh the privacy concerns against what appear to be limited benefits? VPR reports:

“This is a very expensive form of investigation,” [Allen Gilbert at the ACLU] says. “I think it would be hard for anybody doing a cost-benefit analysis to think that this was the way that police resources should be allocated. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Whatever the price tag for license plate readers, Gilbert says his concerns stem from the social cost of the technology.

“We have to ask,” he says, “‘should government be collecting this amount of information about people who are not suspected of having committed a crime?’”

To which would answer, “No.”

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