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ACLU: Police record license plates by the millions

July 17, 2013 • National News


An Alexandria Police Department squad car is seen outfitted with a license plate scanner mounted to the trunk, Tuesday, July 16, 2013, in Alexandria, Va. Local police departments across the country have amassed millions of digital records on the location and movements of vehicles with a license plate using automated scanners. Affixed to police cars, bridges or buildings, the scanners capture images of passing or parked vehicles and note their location, dumping that information into police databases. Departments keep the records for weeks or even years. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

WASHINGTON (AP) — You can drive, but you can’t hide.

A rapidly growing network of police cameras is capturing, storing and sharing data on license plates, making it possible to stitch together people’s movements whether they are stuck in a commute, making tracks to the beach or up to no good.

For the first time, the number of license tag captures has reached the millions, according to a study published Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union based on information from hundreds of law enforcement agencies. Departments keep the records for weeks or years, sometimes indefinitely, saying they can be crucial in tracking suspicious cars, aiding drug busts, finding abducted children and more.

Attached to police cars, bridges or buildings — and sometimes merely as an app on a police officer’s smartphone — scanners capture images of passing or parked vehicles and pinpoint their locations, uploading that information into police databases.

Over time, it’s unlikely many vehicles in a covered area escape notice. And with some of the information going into regional databases encompassing multiple Login to read more

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