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Concern Regarding Automatic License Plate Readers (ALPR) Collecting Data from Innocent People

Wed July 17 2013 10:45 pm
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A new police technology reads car license plates and records where you drive. The cameras are raising privacy concerns.

Initially, captured license plate data was used just to check against lists of cars that law enforcement hoped to locate for various reasons (to act on arrest warrants, find stolen cars, etc.). However, increasingly, all of the captured data is being fed into massive databases that contain the location information of many millions of innocent Americans stretching back for months or even years.

Schaumburg Police Department has one sedan marked police car equipped with this technology, which is used to check against lists of cars that might be connected to arrest warrants or might be stolen vehicles.

The ACLU researched the following agencies in Illinois …

Bellwood Police Department
Burbank Police Department
Chicago Police Department
Evanston Police Department
Hanover Park Police Department
Illinois Emergency Management Authority
Lemont Police Department
Metro East Auto Theft Task Force
Oak Forest Police Department
Office of Emergency Management
Springfield Police Department
Village of Streamwood

The closest community to the northwest suburbs — Streamwood — does not leave technology on for collection of random information, but has been used in specific instances.

The ACLU sent a Freedom of Information Act request to Streamwood officials and received the following reply about Automatic License Plate Reader (ALPR) technology from Thomas M. Bastian with the law firm for the Village of Streamwood — Storino, Ramello, & Durkin.

… the Village of Streamwood has not purchased ALPR Technology for installation in police assigned vehicles. The ALPR Technology or option is included in the Gatso USA, Inc. Automated Red-light EnforcementProgram. The Village utilizes one automated red-light enforcement camera which is located at the intersection ofRoute 19 and Route 59 in the Village of Streamwood. As you will discern from the enclosed information, ALPR Technology is not utilized by the Village to randomly scan motor vehicle license plates. ALPR Technology has been utilized by the Village of Streamwood Police Department in two (2) instances since the inception of automated traffic enforcement.

The first incident was an Amber Alert and the second was a response to a robbery suspect that
escaped from the County Sheriffs custody while being transported for a court hearing.
The enclosed materials indicate the procedure for inputting the license plate of the motor vehicle in question and request of Gatso by the police department to switch the camera from red-light enforcement to “Amber Alert”. The request to switch to ALPR Technology includes a time period for the use of ALPR Technology after which the camera will revert to automated traffic

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IMPORTANT NOTE: All persons referred to as subjects, defendants, offenders or suspects, etc. are presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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