As reported in the Press of Atlantic City, Linwood, NJ police have asked the City Council to purchase an automatic license plate reader (ALPR) for their department. The police department has currently been utilizing a borrowed ALPR, that they have access to until June.
ALPRs have been around for years and have become more and more popular with law enforcement. These license plate readers are used, for example, to alert officers when a vehicle’s registration is expired, a car has been stolen, or a car is on the ‘be on the lookout,’ or ‘BOLO’ list. They can also be useful in stopping crime by analyzing whether certain vehicles frequent an area. The scans, which are geotagged with a vehicles location, can be stored for years.
This widespread collection of data has caused some groups, such as the ACLU, to oppose this technology, arguing that license plate scan data can reveal information about the social or religious habits of an individual. The issue is thus the infringement on people’s privacy by the government.
The benefits of license plate readers to law enforcement, however, are substantial. These devices can quickly determine whether a vehicle’s registration has expired, or other infractions. This information can lead to increases in traffic tickets, aiding municipalities in collecting ticket revenue.
ALPR’s are also beneficial in other areas of crime enforcement. For example, vehicles which habitually frequent a known spot of drug trafficking can be tracked and accounted for. Additionally, ALPR’s aid in apprehending suspects potentially involved in burglaries.
In addition to the benefits they pose, there are arguments that ALPR’s are not a violation of privacy. License plates are being scanned on public roads and since there is no expectation of privacy for license plates, the argument goes, these scanners do not infringe on that right. Additionally, as politicians like Linwood City Council President Tim Tighe have argued, officers simply do not have enough manpower to look through data that is irrelevant to their investigations.
If you’ve received a traffic ticket or have been accused of a crime in New Jersey, you need experienced legal counsel to assist you with your case. Call our office at 888-815-3649 for a free, no obligation consultation with an attorney.