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Automatic License Plate Recognition
By Dennis J. LauWhat is Automatic License Plate Recognition?
You can bet that the ACLU has not
been silent on this issue. Different ACLU offices have freely offered their
wisdom. "The NYPD has proposed the blanket, indiscriminate videotaping of
millions of people," said New York Civil Liberties Union Associate Legal
Director Christopher Dunn. "The NYPD should not be spending $100 million of
public money to track law-abiding New Yorkers." (Gendar, 2008)
While not public safety experts, they freely comment on perceived governmental intrusions. Jeff Gamso, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio said, "The scanner’s gaze is too wide and it’s an infringement against the innocent drivers whose plates get captured… Using (ALPR) to scan all license plates is a civil rights violation and could lead to government abuse of the information… I think they should just knock it off." (Associated Press , 2007)
The Washington State Patrol started checking all the plates of vehicles boarding ferries. They check them for AMBER alerts , reported stolen vehicles, felony wanted persons, and suspected terrorists. ACLU Seattle chapter spokesman Doug Honig said, “The (ACLU) has no problem with the camera system being used for flagging stolen vehicles, potential child abductors and wanted felons” but not terrorists. (Port Orchard Independent - Opinion, 2008)
The running thread is concern is how long the information will be stored, how it will be used, and who will have access. Ultimately the courts may have to weigh in on these plain view observations and the need for public safety vs. a reasonable expectation of privacy.
How does the equipment from different vendors compare?
Law enforcement agencies with limited technical expertise are often challenged to select technology based equipment, systems and services. Trade shows and vendor claims can be problematic to sort through. Recognizing this dilemma the U.S. Department of Homeland Security established the System Assessment and Validation for Emergency Responders (SAVER) Program to provide local agencies, objective tests of comparable equipment. SAVER focuses on two questions: “What equipment is available?” and “How does it perform?”
In 2008 SAVER issued a series of reports on mobile license plate recognition systems. Its focus group recommendations set evaluation criteria, comparison methodology, and selected four vendors for evaluation. Systems were evaluated on a 5 point scale in the areas of capability, usability, deployability and maintainability. The PAGIS system by PIPS Technology scored the highest with an overall score of 4.4, followed by MPH-900 by ELSAG North America with an overall score of 4.0, and PlateScan by Civica Software with an overall score of 3.5. CarDetector by Vigilant Video received the overall lowest score of 3.1. (Engstrom, 2008)
If a local agency is deploying new ALPR technology, the consideration for regional compatibility with ALPR systems used by other local agencies should be considered. A good first step would be to talk to their other local agencies that are already using ALPR systems and learn from their experience. ELSAG is well established in the east, while PIPS has a strong following out west. I believe that ALPR is already an effective tool for law enforcement, and like all technology, it continues to improve rapidly with time.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dennis J. Lau is a law enforcement official in Southern California. He completed this paper in conjunction with his course work while pursuing his BA in Criminal Justice Management.
Associated Press . (2007, July 30). ACLU objects to plate scanners in police cruisers. Retrieved March 22, 2009, from The Chronicle-Telegram: http://www.chroniclet.com/2007/07/30/aclu-objects-to-plate-scanners-in-police-cruisers_122/
Coaffee, J. (2004). Rings of Steel, Rings of Concrete and Rings of Confidence: Designing out Terrorism in Central London pre and post September 11th. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research , 28 (1), 201-211.
Engstrom, C. (2008). Mobile License Plate Recognition Systems Assessment Report. Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Gendar, A. (2008, August 12). ACLU sez city plan to scan license plates bum steer. Retrieved March 22, 2009, from NY Daily News: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2008/08/12/2008-08-12_aclu_sez_city_plan_to_scan_license_plate.html
Jia, W., He, X., & Piccardi, M. (2004). Automatic License Plate Recognition: A review. Proceedings of the International Conference on Imaging Science, Systems and Technology (pp. 43-48). Las Vegas: CSREA Press.
McKay, J. (2008, April 9). License Plate Recognition Systems Extend the Reach of Patrol Officers. Retrieved March 22, 2009, from Government Technologies: http://www.govtech.com/dc/articles/282014
Plourd, K. (2006, April 18). Camera system aids Long Beach police. Retrieved March 21, 2009, from CSULB Online 49er: http://www.csulb.edu/~d49er/archives/2006/spring/news/v12n104-camera.shtml
Port Orchard Independent - Opinion. (2008, July 30). WSP plan irks terrorists and their enablers. Retrieved March 22, 2009, from Port Orchard Independent: http://www.pnwlocalnews.com/kitsap/poi/opinion/26023824.html
PRNewswire. (2008, November 10). Los Angeles County Advances Public Safety with Federal Signal Technology. Retrieved March 22, 2009, from Officer.com: http://www.officer.com/web/online/Off-The-Wire/Los-Angeles-County-Advances-Public-Safety-with-Federal-Signal-Technology/27$44070
Reuters. (2008, January 15). PIPS Technology Forms License Plate Recognition Industry Consortium. Retrieved March 22, 2009, from Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS220179+15-Jan-2008+PRN20080115
Rossetti, M. D. (2001). Applications And Evaluation Of Automated License Plate Reading Systems. Proceedings of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America 11th Annual Meeting and Exposition. Miami.
Senn, P. M. (2008, July 8). Picking Out Plates. Retrieved March 21, 2009, from Officer.com: http://www.officer.com/article/article.jsp?id=30987&siteSection=20