What would you think about your city having in place a system that could read and record the license plate of every vehicle that rolled through town? What if the system was helping track down criminals; would that make it a plus?
It’s what is happening in one Long Island, New York village, and citizens are finding that it’s a double-edged sword. While the system potentially keeps the village safer, it also stretches the resources of the small town.
The system, which was activated last fall, has 27 cameras; if a wanted criminal drives through town, an alarm sounds. If a home is burglarized, police can see who was on the road in the neighborhood at the time.
However, foresight did not prepare the police department for what would really happen. Since the scanners went online in November, they have triggered roughly 700 alarms a day. Most of these alarms are for cars with expired plates or suspended registration stickers. Thus far, the city has impounded 500 vehicles. More than 2,000 court summonses have been written, and these are mostly for minor violations.
According to the police chief in the town of Freeport, the new technology has added a tremendous amount of workload for his 95 officers. It quickly became clear that the officers would not be able to respond to every alert signaling an infraction.
To date, the new technology has helped the department catch a wanted killer, arrest a dozen other crime suspects and recover some 15 stolen vehicles. More and more law enforcement agencies have been using scanners in the past few years.
So what’s the problem, you may ask? Civil liberties groups are raising privacy concerns. They say the scanners are invading the privacy of drivers who are guilty of nothing – and any information gained by the scanners could be used for any reason – maybe not all for the good.
What do you think? Do you want law enforcement watching your every move when you’re driving?
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