Lewisville is the latest city in north Texas to deploy automatic license plate scanner technology in police vehicles. These systems are explictly sold and used for their ability to recover revenue owed the city, for anything from unpaid parking tickets or even municipal back taxes.
These scanners idenfity any license plate within camera range of the police car and intsantly match the plate number against a database of vehicles or owners the police would like to locate, for any suspected criminal or civil violation. According to this report, in it’s first year of use, the scanning and tracking system has helped recover stolen cars, capture robbery and hit and run suspects, and identify hundreds of drivers with outstanding criminal warrants.
As the deployment of these tracking systems becomes commonplace, it will be nearly impossible to drive anywhere if you are the owner of a registered vehicle and suspected of any crime, or even may have an inadvertantly suspended license or lapsed auto insurance. And even if you have done nothing wrong, and are not wanted by the police for any reason, they’ve still tracked and captured your license plate. That information lives in a database that can be accessed at any time. The government now knows where your car was parked, or which direction you were travelling anytime you drive near a police car. And they can look up that data if they are interested in tracking your movements or location over time.
This constant surveillance is frightening, but it is important to be aware of what is happening. And of course, if you have a legal problem that is likely to get you stopped, you should absolutely try to clear it up before that happens. If you are stopped and arrested, your options are significantly reduced, particularly for a warrant that might be fixable with an attorney’s help.