License Plate Scans Cause Concern

Police say the cameras cut crime. Critics say they're a huge privacy concern.

By Debra Bogstie
|  Tuesday, Feb 21, 2012  |  Updated 11:29 PM EDT
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Police are scanning license plates of random drivers and placing the information in a database.  Critics say it's a huge privacy concern.

Police are scanning license plates of random drivers and placing the information in a database. Critics say it's a huge privacy concern.

Some police departments are scanning license plates of random drivers and keeping the data.  It's raising privacy concerns and has prompted the A.C.L.U. of Connecticut to back new legislation to curtail the practice.

The license plate readers are mounted on the back of patrol cars and they're used to find cars that have expired plates, cars that are stolen, and cars that are linked to crimes.  They can pinpoint the specific time and location a car was in a specific area, according to police.

The Capital Region Chiefs of Police Association has compiled a database of more than three million license plates that were scanned by officers in ten towns.

The A.C.L.U. of Connecticut calls it a major privacy concern for residents since the data is accessible to anyone who requests it.

The organization is now sponsoring a bill that would require police departments to purge information after two weeks unless it's part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

"It will scan roughly where you work, where you live, if you go to a particular doctor, if you're a weekly churchgoer," said David McGuire, an attorney with the A.C.L.U. of Connecticut.  "We're worried about the data being kept for years and years which creates a major privacy concern for citizens in Connecticut."

According to the Associated Press, police in those ten towns made 839 motor vehicle arrests and 28 criminal arrests in 2011 thanks to the technology.

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