ACLU questions police using license tracker | News
A recently employed Albuquerque Police Department surveillance program has triggered widespread criticism - it is believed to violate privacy rights.
APD is using small, discreet cameras to take pictures of car license plates in effort to catch more car thieves.
The license plate readers snap photos of plates at random, but some argue it goes against the right to privacy.
"Why do they need to take my license plate down if I did nothing wrong," one man said.
"It's just invading people's privacy," a woman said. "I understand they're trying to do their job, but I think there's other ways of getting it done."
These are among core arguments of why some motorists are against the small cameras mounted on six Albuquerque police cars.
Essentially, the cameras snap pictures of plates at random in parking lots, and the information is then downloaded and stored in a database for up to six months.
"Ninety-nine percent of the time it's going to be of legitimate value we're almost sure," Officer Robert Gibbs said.
The plate numbers are then cross-checked with other national databases, in hopes of finding links to reported stolen cars here or anywhere across the country.
"They're just another form of technology to assist us in basically policing - locating stolen vehicles, locating stolen license plates, locating vehicles that may be of interest in solving crimes," Gibbs said.
The ACLU, or American Civil Liberties Union, concern is not only invasion of privacy, but also how long the information is stored in the database.
"If that's what it's being used for and that's strictly the purpose law enforcement is gathering this information for, then it should be willing to purge that information of all the innocent people who's license plates they have scanned," Peter Simonson, executive director for ACLU-NM, said. "We have a core principal in our society that law enforcement and the government isn't going to collect data on us, and isn't going to invade our privacy just to see if we're doing something wrong."
APD assures no information collected is shared outside of police agencies, and adds the technology is simply a tool to reduce crime.