KATY (Covering Katy News) - Fort Bend County Precinct 3 Constable Wayne Thompson has installed new technology in a patrol vehicle that is somewhat controversial. One of Constable Thompson's patrol vehicles has been equipped with cameras and software that scans license plates of nearby cars as the deputy is patrolling. It's called an LPR, short for license plate reader. The newly equipped patrol vehicle has three cameras on the front of the vehicle.
"The 3 cameras rapidly scan license plates and will help us locate wanted criminals, missing persons and stolen vehicles," Thompson wrote on Facebook. "We are proud to lead the way as the only FB Constable’s Office utilizing this technology," he added.
The systems are already being used in many other communities across the country but Thompson says Precinct 3 is the first constable's office in Fort Bend to install the LPRs.
Critics, like the American Civil Liberties Union, have argued for years that overtime the systems can build a picture of where we go, and what we do.
"The main problem with license plate readers is they're not just used to locate suspects, but to track the locations of everybody" whose plate is photographed, said Allie Bohm, an advocacy and policy strategist with the ACLU in an interview with the South Bend Tribune. "Obviously, tracking one's location can be a significant invasion of privacy."
The LPR can detect license plates of stolen vehicles or owners who have outstanding arrest warrants. It can also detect the plates of vehicles that belongs to folks with suspended or revoked drivers licenses. The system alerts the police officer or deputies when it finds a license plate that is on a hot list. The car will be pulled over and a manual comparison will be done to be sure the systems does not have any false positives.
In California police are reportedly using the systems to ticket non-criminal offenses like nabbing new residents who have been living in the state but missed the deadline for registering their vehicles in California.
Below is a video with more information. It was produced by the Denver Police Department which has been utilizing the LPR technology in some of its patrol vehicles.