New police surveillance technology is being deployed in Montgomery County. [Read more...]
Greenville, a northeast suburb of Dallas is the latest city to acquire a new automatic license plate scanning systems for their police department. This system will be used by the police department to search for stolen cars, and identify drivers and cars flagged in the database as wanted by the police. [Read more...]
State troopers in Texas will soon be patrolling with the most modern law enforcement and surveillance tools available. According to the DPS, 2000 highway patrol units will be equipped with automatic license plate scanning systems connected to wireless data networks in a $15 million upgrade.
These systems can scan thousands of vehicle license plates per hour, alerting the trooper to any violations of vehicles withing scanning range, including cars flagged as stolen, drivers with outstanding criminal warrants, suspended drivers licenses, and any other identifying flags input into the network.
The primary benefit of these systems, say it’s proponents, is the time and labor saving efficiencies it provides to Texas state troopers in their daily duties. Current information about any car they stop is instantly displayed on the computer. And as they patrol, the system is always scanning cars within camera range, so the officer or trooper is instantly alerted when a vehicle or driver should be stopped and investigated.
The data tracking of scanned license plates can be shared with other law enforcement agencies, such as homeland security. All the perfectly innocent license plate data captured is stored with it’s time and location. Anyone with access to these databases can track the historical movements and times where that vehicle may have been scanned in the past.
The first areas where these systems will be running will be the state trooper barracks of the greater Houston and Austin areas.
In other news, some Texas citizens are apparently very concerned about the lack of enforcement of the law requiring a front license plate. This is a minor issue, and results in a fine of $200, which can be reduced to $10 if quickly corrected (Under section 502.404 – Texas Transportation Code).
This is also something that can be potentially flagged by automatic license plate readers, but is it worth the effort?
Some Texas police suggest that cars stopped for missing front plate also sometimes have other criminal activity that is identified and caught after a stop for this reason. Some charges that result are DWI or drug possession.
But is a missing front plate any more likely to result in criminal arrests than any other random reason for pulling someone over? Sounds statistically unlikely, and no data is provided to support that conclusion.
If you are charged with any crime in Texas, please contact us for a free consultation on your charges. We will evaluate your case and suggest defense options, with no further obligation.
Police officers in Wichita Falls Texas added the police force to the growing list of Texas city and county law enforcement agencies employing automatic license plate reader scanning technology.
These license plate scanning systems are used to identify automobiles that have been flagged as stolen. The same systems are also commonly used to track down drivers who may have suspended driver’s licenses, or outstanding criminal arrest warrants. They can be used for any vehicle identification purpose, from parking tickets or tax payment violations, or any driver issues when matched with DMV records nationwide.
These systems take an image capture of all license tags within range of a police vehicle equipped with this system. License plates are scanned on the fly in real time and matched with a database of vehicles with any of these known issues. The police officer in the vehicle is instantly alerted, and stops to identify the vehicle and investigate the situation.
Scanners can identify many hundreds of vehicles per hours, and thousands in a police officer’s shift.
Recent news reports have cited the use of these systems in Dallas county, and additional police and sheriff’s departments in Texas are adding them all the time.
One significant concern many citizens have about this invasive surveillance process, is how protected is the data saved? Every plate scanned is stored and logged via it’s GPS-derived location. Our nation’s law enforcement infrastructure is amassing a vast database of the movements of ordinary citizens who have done absolutely nothing wrong.
As these technologies undoubtedly become cheaper to deploy, it won’t be far off in the future when they are standard equipment on all police vehicles. And nationwide data sharing will only increase.
If you have been tracked and identified by a license plate scanner in Texas resulting in a criminal offense, and are in need of an attorney, contact us today for a criminal defense legal consultation.
This report highlights the use of new license plate scanning technology by Texas law enforcement to find stolen cars and apprehend fugitives. Currently employed by the Dallas County Sheriffs as well as many other Texas police departments, this high tech monitoring and scanning system can check thousands of vehicle license plates. It matches plates with a database for driver criminal warrants, suspended licenses and other criminal court or Texas Department of Transportation red flags associated with the vehicle or registered owner.
The automatic license plate scanner system works via several video cameras* (see comment below) mounted in different spots on police vehicles. They are able to scan both moving cars and parked cars, while the police cruiser is either stationary or moving. The video camera is connected to software that captures license plates in real time. Those license tags are scanned via computer optical character recognition system. The plate number is then matched with a database of licenses with known issues or warrants, in real time. If a suspicious plate is flagged, the officer inside the vehicle is alerted in real time, and the vehicle is pulled over or impounded on the spot.
Police cars have had laptop computers able to check license plates for some time. But moving from a police officer manually inputting a few suspicious plates per hour to an automated system tracking every plate in view, up to thousands per hour is a quantum leap in tracking ability.
What does this mean for the average citizen? Many people have serious concerns about the big brother aspects of this constant tracking and monitoring. License plates that are scanned are typically stored for 30 days, or longer. This means if you were scanned, police can go back and find out your exact location where that happened in the past.
It also means that if you happen to have a criminal warrant for failure to appear in court, the likelihood of getting caught is significantly higher. If you have a warrant, and haven’t been caught and arrested, now is the time to talk to a lawyer and find out if you can fix the problem. If you are arrested and in jail, your ability to work out a favorable deal is in serious doubt.
Or if you are driving on a suspended license, same deal. You just can’t expect to get away with this for long. It is simply a risk that is not worth taking.
If you are charged with a criminal offense in Texas, please contact our criminal defense attorneys to take advantage of our free consultation offer. Find out what you are up against, and what we can do to help, with no obigation.