Magazine article Information Management

D.C. Police Criticized for Storing License Plate Data

Magazine article Information Management

D.C. Police Criticized for Storing License Plate Data

Article excerpt

According to The Washington Post, more than 250 cameras--stationary and mounted on patrol cars across the District of Colombia (D.C.) and surrounding area--capture 1,800 vehicle images a minute, scan the vehicles' license plates, and download the information into a database.

Law enforcement agencies can search the data later or use it in real time to track vehicles' movements, helping them investigate and prevent crimes ranging from car theft to abductions.

In D.C., there is more than one plate reader camera per square mile. "It never stops," Captain Kevin Reardon, who runs Arlington County's plate reader program, told The Post. "It just gobbles up tag information. One of the big questions is what do we do with the information?"

In an attempt to balance privacy concerns with the value of the data for investigations, local law enforcement agencies are debating how long to store the information. According to The Post, the data collected in D.C. is kept for three years, and in surrounding areas it is kept from one month to two years.

"That's quite a large database of innocent people's comings and goings," said Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst for the American Civil Liberties Union's technology and liberty program. …

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