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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

License Plate Reader

The legislative session is off to a quick start this year, and there are a few issues we are watching.
Because of some recent national cases, there has been growing concern about government accessing citizens’ data. In some cases, legislation has not kept up with emerging technology.

One issue that I am watching closely relates to automatic license plate readers (LPR), which we have been using for several years now. The value of LPRs in investigating crime is incredible. It has helped police around the country solve homicides, shootings, rapes and other serious crimes, in addition to flagging stolen or wanted cars and people. Locally, it helped us put pieces together in a kidnapping case, among other major cases.

A concern expressed by some privacy advocates is that the LPR data, which includes the time and location of the plate when it was read, could be used for nefarious or unethical reasons. Because of these concerns, the Duluth police department and many other departments have developed strict policies that address retention time, data retrieval requirements and strict tracking.

Unfortunately, a couple of departments do not have any guidelines on the use of LPRs. As a result, there are legislators who want to have LPR data erased immediately after the plate is read, with concern about its misuse as the main reason.

I firmly believe if legislators were to adopt laws similar to our policy, any concerns about misusing LPR data will be addressed.

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