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Fairfield Police Defend Use of License Plate Readers

License plate readers — which are already in use in numerous Fairfield County towns — reportedly save police departments hundreds of man hours and result in more effective law enforcement.

[Editor's Note, April 6: This story has been updated in the seventh paragraph to more accurately reflect the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut's stance on license plate readers.]

Deputy Fairfield Police Chief Christopher Lyddy defends his department's use of license plate readers — which have raised the ire of some civil liberties groups, due to privacy concerns — and also gives anecdotes exemplifying their effectiveness in a recent article in the CT Post.

In the report, Lyddy explains license plate readers — which are already in use in numerous Fairfield County towns — save police departments hundreds of man hours and result in . The devices, which cost about $10,000 a piece, enable officers to automatically scan all plates that pass by a patrol car and check them against a database for things like outstanding warrants and tickets in real-time.

The devices are also proving to be a powerful investigatory tool: The plate scans are kept in a database which can be searched in order to discover if a particular vehicle was in a particular location at a particular time.

In the report, Lyddy explains that since the readers were installed on patrol cars in Fairfield in 2010, they've yielded "quite a few arrests for different motor vehicle violations" that police otherwise might not have had the time or resources to pursue.

"We picked up some stolen cars and we had two robbery arrests as a direct result of the plate reader in kind of a convoluted fashion," Lyddy said in the CT Post report, adding that the readers recently helped Fairfield Police apprehend a robbery suspect in Bridgeport.

Local, state and even federal law enforcement agencies are now using the readers on a regular basis (the town of New Canaan was recently ) — and even the Department of Motor Vehicles and local town governments see a wide range of possible benefits from their use (for example, license plate readers could on vehicles and could also be installed at ). The readers are reportedly very accurate and have been in use in Europe for many years to automate the issuance of speeding tickets.

However some civil liberties groups, like the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, are concerned about privacy implications. Currently Connecticut state law allows law enforcement agencies to hold onto the data indefinitely — whereas other states have passed laws requiring the data to be "purged" after a period of time. The ACLU wants to see rules in place to discard the data after two weeks.

Meanwhile, the Connecticut state legislature is reportedly debating , a measure which wouls allow law enforcement to track the whereabouts of literally every registered vehicle in the state at any given moment. The RFID tags would also allow law enforcement to access historical data showing where every vehicle has been, starting from when the RFID chips installed.

The state Senate Transportation Committee recently voted unanimously to support Senate Bill 288, which was introduced in the legislature following aggressive lobbying by representatives of the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) industry.

But, just like the proposal to install license plate readers in police squad cars, the proposal has raised the eyebrows of some lawmakers who are concerned about the impact on privacy.

In addition, the federal government is pushing ahead with a law requiring states to install RFID tags into all new driver’s licenses, under the REAL ID Act of 2005, essentially for the same purpose.

Andrew Graceffa April 03, 2012 at 08:05 PM
RFID readers or GPS devices? I thought RFID are only readable short range so I don't know how they would be able to track all information.
Andrew Graceffa April 03, 2012 at 08:06 PM
Btw, just take a bike instead.
Master P April 04, 2012 at 01:11 PM
These things are going to generate alot of money for ffld pd... all they have to do is set up a road block and watch the $$ roll in...
Chuck E. Arla April 04, 2012 at 01:36 PM
VERY "1984." Big Brother is watching, and tracking. If I have committed no crime nor motor vehicle offense it's nobody's damned business what street I drove on or where I parked.
Bill Murray April 04, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Newer technology rfid has GPS built in. see http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/view/4635 for a description. So coupled with a rfid chip in your car and another one in your driver’s license you can be tracked or your car using the newer technology including from space. A great example of this in action is posted on youtube “The Secret World of Shoplifting CBC Doc Zone” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7seOlegcOis Move the time index to 17:49 and watch Walgreen security look at people’s houses and who has pill bottles bought from Walgreens. Soon it will be illegal to be outside without identification, and coupled with rfid you can and will be tracked, we won’t need to have as many police will be the pitch. Silly communities will fall for it as a cost savings just like the proposals in senate bill 288 The combination of drivers license rfid and car registration rfid will be used to prove who the driver of the vehicle is. Perhaps the state vehicles should be first as a pilot project. The people would like to know that our law makers and enforcers, are where they are supposed to be all the time. They should be observing all the stop signs and traffic signals like the rest of us. The state should eagerly adopt a web site so that citizens can monitor real time the activates of all members of state and local governments using tax payer funded motor vehicles. www.edocmasters.com
Fairfield Resident May 16, 2012 at 11:24 AM
The device scans license plates "optically" and through software, deciphers the letters and numbers on the license plate scanned and then cross-references the entire plate number to their database(s) and looks for any violations that may be associated with that plate number.
Fairfield Resident May 16, 2012 at 11:25 AM
The device scans license plates "optically" and through software, deciphers the letters and numbers on the license plate scanned and then cross-references the entire plate number to their database(s) and looks for any violations that may be associated with that plate number.

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