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License-plate readers let police collect millions of records on drivers
CIRO ^ | 6/26/13 | Ali Winston

Posted on 06/26/2013 3:04:40 PM PDT by LibWhacker

A license-plate reader mounted on a San Leandro Police Department car can log thousands of plates in an eight-hour patrol shift. “It works 100 times better than driving around looking for license plates with our eyes,” says police Lt. Randall Brandt.

Credit: Michael Katz-Lacabe

When the city of San Leandro, Calif., purchased a license-plate reader for its police department in 2008, computer security consultant Michael Katz-Lacabe asked the city for a record of every time the scanners had photographed his car.

The results shocked him.

The paperback-size device, installed on the outside of police cars, can log thousands of license plates in an eight-hour patrol shift. Katz-Lacabe said it had photographed his two cars on 112 occasions, including one image from 2009 that shows him and his daughters stepping out of his Toyota Prius in their driveway.

That photograph, Katz-Lacabe said, made him “frightened and concerned about the magnitude of police surveillance and data collection.” The single patrol car in San Leandro equipped with a plate reader had logged his car once a week on average, photographing his license plate and documenting the time and location.

At a rapid pace, and mostly hidden from the public, police agencies throughout California have been collecting millions of records on drivers and feeding them to intelligence fusion centers operated by local, state and federal law enforcement.

An image captured by a license-plate reader in 2009 shows Katz-Lacabe and his daughters stepping out of a car in their driveway. The photograph made Katz-Lacabe “frightened and concerned about the magnitude of police surveillance and data collection,” he says.

Credit: San Leandro Police Department photo courtesy of Michael Katz-Lacabe

With heightened concern over secret intelligence operations at the National Security Agency, the localized effort to track drivers highlights the extent to which the government has committed to collecting large amounts of data on people who have done nothing wrong.

A year ago, the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center – one of dozens of law enforcement intelligence-sharing centers set up after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 – signed a $340,000 agreement with the Silicon Valley firm Palantir to construct a database of license-plate records flowing in from police using the devices across 14 counties, documents and interviews show.

The extent of the center’s data collection has never been revealed. Neither has the involvement of Palantir, a Silicon Valley firm with extensive ties to the Pentagon and intelligence agencies. The CIA’s venture capital fund, In-Q-Tel, has invested $2 million in the firm.

The jurisdictions supplying license-plate data to the intelligence center stretch from Monterey County to the Oregon border. According to contract documents, the database will be capable of handling at least 100 million records and be accessible to local and state law enforcement across the region.

Law enforcement agencies throughout Northern California will be able to access the data, as will state and federal authorities.

In the Bay Area, at least 32 government agencies use license-plate readers. The city of Piedmont decided to install them along the border with Oakland, and the Marin County enclave of Tiburon placed plate scanners and cameras on two roads leading into and out of town.

Law enforcement agencies throughout the region also have adopted the technology. Police in Daly City, Milpitas and San Francisco have signed agreements to provide data from plate readers to the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center. A Piedmont document indicates that city is also participating, along with Oakland, Walnut Creek, Alameda and the California Highway Patrol.

Katz-Lacabe said he believes the records of his movements are too revealing for someone who has done nothing wrong. With the technology, he said, “you can tell who your friends are, who you hang out with, where you go to church, whether you’ve been to a political meeting.”

Lt. Randall Brandt of the San Leandro police said, “It’s new technology, we’re learning as we go, but it works 100 times better than driving around looking for license plates with our eyes.”

The intelligence center database will store license-plate records for up to two years, regardless of data retention limits set by local police departments.

Many cities use license-plate readers to enforce parking restrictions or identify motorists who run red lights. Police in New York City have used the readers to catch car thieves and scan parking lots to identify motorists with open warrants.

In California, Long Beach police detectives used scanner data to arrest five people in a 2010 homicide. Plate readers in Tiburon identified celebrity chef Guy Fieri’s yellow Lamborghini in March 2011, which allegedly had been stolen from a San Francisco dealership by a teenager who embarked on a crime spree two years ago and now faces attempted murder charges.

Sid Heal, a retired commander with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, oversaw the adoption of plate readers in his agency in the mid-2000s. Heal recalled the dramatic uptick the plate readers made in the auto theft unit’s productivity.

“We found 10 stolen vehicles on the first weekend in 2005 with our antitheft teams,” Heal said. “I had a hit within 45 minutes.”

Before, Heal said, police had to call license plates in to a dispatcher and wait to have the car verified as stolen. Plate readers, Heal said, “are lightning fast in comparison” and allow officers to run up to 1,200 plates an hour, as opposed to 20 to 50 plates per day previously.

But Jennifer Lynch, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the Northern California database raises significant privacy concerns. “Because so many people in the Bay Area are mobile, it makes it that much more possible to track people from county to county,” Lynch said.

In May, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, sued the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s and Los Angeles Police departments for a week of data gathered and retained in a multiagency network. For now, it’s unknown which agency administers the Los Angeles database, how many agencies contribute or have access to the database, how many records the system retains or how long they are kept.

In San Diego, 13 federal and local law enforcement agencies have compiled more than 36 million license-plate scans in a regional database since 2010 with the help of federal homeland security grants. The San Diego Association of Governments maintains the database. Unlike the Northern California database, which retains the data for between one and two years, the San Diego system retains license-plate information indefinitely.

“License-plate data is clearly identifiable to specific individuals,” said Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “This is like having your barcode tracked.”

Few limits on license-plate data

License-plate readers are not subject to the same legal restrictions as GPS devices that can be used to track an individual's movements. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously last year that lengthy GPS tracking constitutes a Fourth Amendment search and may require a warrant.

But plate readers might not fall under such rulings if police successfully argue that motorists have no “reasonable expectation of privacy” while driving on public roads.

Then-California state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, introduced a bill last year that would have required California police to purge license-plate data after 60 days and applied that rule to companies that collect such data. Law enforcement and private businesses involved in the technology resisted, and the bill died.

“Do we really want to maintain a database that tracks personal movements of law-abiding citizens in perpetuity? That’s the fundamental question here,” said Simitian, now a Santa Clara County supervisor. “Larger and larger amounts of data collected over longer periods of time provide a very detailed look at the personal movements of private citizens.”

While some law enforcement agencies, like the California Highway Patrol, have their own data retention guidelines for license-plate scanners, Simitian said there still is no larger policy that protects the privacy of Californians on the road.

“Public safety and privacy protection are not mutually exclusive,” he said. “There's a balance to be struck, and most people understand that.”

Heal, the retired sheriff’s commander, said that absent clear legal limits on license-plate readers, law enforcement agencies will continue to expand their ability to gather such information.

“A lot of the guidance on this technology – the court doctrine – is nonexistent,” Heal said. “Until that guidance comes, law enforcement is in an exploratory mode.”


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: communism; dontspyonme; govtabuse; license; plate; policestate; privacy; reader; tyranny; waronliberty
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1 posted on 06/26/2013 3:04:40 PM PDT by LibWhacker
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To: LibWhacker
Now, isn't that comforting.

I'm still wondering why one needs "licenses" for themselves and their vehicles to peaceably travel from place to place.

I thought wars were fought and won over this.

2 posted on 06/26/2013 3:11:42 PM PDT by elkfersupper ( Member of the Original Defiant Class)
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To: LibWhacker

“........But plate readers might not fall under such rulings if police successfully argue that motorists have no “reasonable expectation of privacy” while driving on public roads.........”

Maybe not - but there is at least one picture of a guy and his kids getting out of his car in a driveway.

Last time I looked a driveway is not a public road.


3 posted on 06/26/2013 3:12:39 PM PDT by PeteB570 ( Islam is the sea in which the Terrorist Shark swims. The deeper the sea the larger the shark.)
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To: LibWhacker

A friend of mine in California told me that he has seen California Highway Patrol cars driving through the parking lot at the Cabela’s outside of Reno several times now. They drive up and down the rows of cars recording who is shopping at Cabela’s.

Where they can keep this information forever it creates a database of people who shop at a gun shop. And a lot of Californians buy their ammo and etc. in Nevada to avoid California’s various ammunition registration schemes.


4 posted on 06/26/2013 3:13:38 PM PDT by MeganC (A gun is like a parachute. If you need one, and don't have one, you'll never need one again.)
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To: LibWhacker

Why no, Officer, I don't object to my license plate picture being taken. What's that? Database problems? Sorry to hear that...

5 posted on 06/26/2013 3:16:16 PM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: LibWhacker

6 posted on 06/26/2013 3:18:42 PM PDT by BenLurkin (This is not a statement of fact. It is either opinion or satire; or both)
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To: LibWhacker

I’m in general agreement with the “reasonable expectation of privacy” in the context in which it originated. Potential for occasional to frequent observation when you’re in public. But with the kind of high-bandwidth, high-penetration tech existed then that exists today, I think they’re sort of sneaking through a loophole: what would be more than reasonable in the original context is oppressively intrusive when applied with this degree of coverage. AND handy for potential tyrants, which is reason enough to prohibit it, even if it were otherwise perfectly legitimate. The ways in which this kind of stuff is being deployed is making a hollow shell of the fourth amendment, and should be severely curtailed or eliminated (and I don’t mean by the use of procedural “safeguards”, I mean physically).


7 posted on 06/26/2013 3:18:54 PM PDT by Still Thinking (Freedom is NOT a loophole!)
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To: elkfersupper
I'm still wondering why one needs "licenses" for themselves and their vehicles to peaceably travel from place to place.

Exactly! When people rode horses, neither driver nor vehicle was required to be licensed. Add an IC engine and suddenly [they "think"] what was once a right is now a "privilege" (even tons of FReepers buy this).

Bull feces. If the switch to the new tech couldn't be made without vast new powers being lorded over the goobermint's masters, including requiring permission simply to employ it, then it simply wasn't ready for prime time, and should not have been adopted, period. The excuse they use is that the roads are "public". I could have a long discussion on that topic, but don't have the time at the moment.

8 posted on 06/26/2013 3:24:55 PM PDT by Still Thinking (Freedom is NOT a loophole!)
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To: LibWhacker

The systems that I know of scan a tag number against a database of stolen cars, wanted felons, someone wanted for questioning, and amber alerts that is loaded at each shift since the info is always changing.

These systems only snap a pic of the vehicle if it recognizes a tag that was flagged in the system, and displays that image on the screen in the patrol car so the officer can go back and find that vehicle easier.

All of the other tag numbers that are queried against the database are not stored, and those images that do get stored are deleted once whatever issue that caused the tag to be flagged is resolved. The solid state drives used get wiped at the end of the shift before a new database is installed for the next shift.


9 posted on 06/26/2013 3:30:21 PM PDT by 2CAVTrooper (Slaving away so obama supporting deadbeats can play)
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To: LibWhacker
Lt. Randall Brandt of the San Leandro police said, “It’s new technology, we’re learning as we go, but it works 100 times better than driving around looking for license plates with our eyes.”

Uh, no, it works with 100 times more fascist efficiency as humans.

In the real world, the one occupied by real people with real jobs, fascist efficiency != good.

10 posted on 06/26/2013 3:30:45 PM PDT by Still Thinking (Freedom is NOT a loophole!)
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To: Still Thinking

You might want to contemplate the impact of the communist-inspired Social Security Act. Before it became law, people were anonymous to Big Brother. Now, everyone is a number in his data base. It signaled the end of privacy in America.


11 posted on 06/26/2013 3:32:46 PM PDT by Misterioso (It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing - Duke Ellington)
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To: LibWhacker

Used to be a cop. A few friends were assigned to the Auto Theft Unit when these things first rolled out. Every day, someone in the unit would go to a website ran by the insurance companies and they would download all the newly reported stolen cars onto a thumb drive and then dump that info into the laptops. In Atlanta, at the time, it was only for stolen vehicles/plates, car jacked vehicles.

What the company sells: These machines can be on cars; in traffic cones; on street posts. They said that with just the fines from “no insurance tickets” the machine could pay for itself in a few months. They can program the computers to do whatever they want. They can just look for stolen cars/plates, wanted persons, no insurance, no registration.

Basically, one big fishing expedition. Not unlike out government collecting all that data w/ the NSA, one could guess.

In Atlanta, and a lot of other places, there are dozens of cars equipped with these devices. Weird thing is, most cities have ‘no chase policies’ in place for everything except violent/forcible felonies. So, stolen cars don’t get chased anymore like they did back in the day. Too much liability.

Your government hard at work protecting and serving its citizens.


12 posted on 06/26/2013 3:32:51 PM PDT by qaz123
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To: LibWhacker

13 posted on 06/26/2013 3:33:34 PM PDT by Jack Hydrazine (I’m not a Republican, I'm a Conservative! Pubbies haven't been conservative since before T.R.)
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To: LibWhacker
And yet we still can't run a background check on Ubama.
14 posted on 06/26/2013 3:34:45 PM PDT by E. Pluribus Unum (Who could have guessed that one day pro wrestling would be less fake than network news?)
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To: MeganC

I-10 and I-15 have cameras mounted on poles in the Center Divide from LA to the state borders of NV an AZ. These cameras are not Traffic Cams.
Anyone seen them on I-80 from SF to NV?


15 posted on 06/26/2013 3:36:39 PM PDT by TaMoDee ( Lassez les bons temps rouler dans les 2013! Geaux, Pack, Geaux!)
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To: LibWhacker

Can they be jammed or thwarted?


16 posted on 06/26/2013 3:41:18 PM PDT by Adder (No, Mr. Franklin, we could NOT keep it.)
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To: TaMoDee

They do that all over California. You can actually see their feeds from the web:

http://video.dot.ca.gov/


17 posted on 06/26/2013 3:41:20 PM PDT by MeganC (A gun is like a parachute. If you need one, and don't have one, you'll never need one again.)
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To: Adder

“Can they be jammed or thwarted?”

When you park your car just be sure to put on the car cover so it hides your plate. Nothing illegal about that at all.

No idea what to do about it when you’re driving.


18 posted on 06/26/2013 3:46:58 PM PDT by MeganC (A gun is like a parachute. If you need one, and don't have one, you'll never need one again.)
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To: Billthedrill

LMAO. Post of the day.


19 posted on 06/26/2013 3:48:16 PM PDT by JCBreckenridge (Un Pere, Une Mere, C'est elementaire)
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To: Adder

The easy solution to this is to invent removeable license plate covers. So long as your vehicle isn’t moving and you aren’t behind the wheel, the plates don’t have to show. You can cover them all you want.


20 posted on 06/26/2013 3:48:51 PM PDT by PlanToDisappear
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To: PlanToDisappear

http://shopping.photomaskcover.com/?que=licenseplatecover&matchtype=b&mobile=&creative=14703316513&keyword=license%20plate%20cover&placement=&gclid=CNjcpsHngrgCFY9FMgodcjYAFw


21 posted on 06/26/2013 3:50:34 PM PDT by nascarnation (Baraq's economic policy: trickle up poverty)
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To: Adder
 photo photoblocker-license-plate-spray-test-01_zps175fa1b1.jpg I believe this only works when there is a flash involved, but I'm not positive.
22 posted on 06/26/2013 3:51:13 PM PDT by Ronald_Magnus
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To: Ronald_Magnus
Correct, only when flashed.

That said, you could ride a motorcycle with its plate mounted like so:

This is legal and the plate scanners *hate* it.

23 posted on 06/26/2013 3:56:28 PM PDT by Spktyr (Overwhelmingly superior firepower and the willingness to use it is the only proven peace solution.)
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To: PlanToDisappear
The easy solution to this is to invent removeable license plate covers

Another solution would be to just wait for the cost of the technology to get low enough so that everyone has one on their car. Kind of like the dash cams which started in police cars and are now $99.00 on Amazon. Once enough people have them the data stream from all of the civilian cameras will generate nearly perfect real time tracking of every vehicle on the road - including the ones which come and go from government offices every day.

Then the public can use the data as they see fit. Maybe you'll get ads on your browser suggesting new places to shop along your common routes, or maybe you'll just want to look up where all the road construction is happening at that moment, or if you are anywhere near folks you know who are also out in traffic.

24 posted on 06/26/2013 3:58:25 PM PDT by freeandfreezing
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To: MeganC

“A friend of mine in California told me that he has seen California Highway Patrol cars driving through the parking lot at the Cabela’s outside of Reno several times now. They drive up and down the rows of cars recording who is shopping at Cabela’s.”

We have relatives in Reno so we always go out to Cabela’s in their car. But I am just wondering what’s going to be done with these mamoth Agricultural Inspection Stations that CA has on all major roads into the state. It would be very easy to use them to do inspections for ammo and guns, because they aren’t doing anything every time I go through. What’s next gigantic X-ray machines at the border?


25 posted on 06/26/2013 4:00:48 PM PDT by vette6387
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To: elkfersupper
At a rapid pace, and mostly hidden from the public, police agencies throughout California have been collecting millions of records on drivers and feeding them to intelligence fusion centers operated by local, state and federal law enforcement.

All the tools for a permanent totalitarian state now exist...

26 posted on 06/26/2013 4:03:02 PM PDT by GOPJ (... liberal anger - - the privileged wheeze of entitled brats ... Greenfield)
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To: Spktyr; Adder

Another option is to take your tags off and put them in your window, both front and rear.

With slightly tinted rear windows and the angle of the front windshield, I think the cams wold have some trouble.


27 posted on 06/26/2013 4:03:13 PM PDT by Zeneta (No eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn.)
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To: vette6387

“But I am just wondering what’s going to be done with these mamoth Agricultural Inspection Stations that CA has on all major roads into the state.”

I’m guessing that they will start using them for border inspections after the United States secedes from California.

}-)


28 posted on 06/26/2013 4:03:58 PM PDT by MeganC (A gun is like a parachute. If you need one, and don't have one, you'll never need one again.)
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To: LibWhacker

I don’t think it would be a good idea to park your car in front of a bar for more than a couple of hours. If you get scanned driving after drinking and leaving the bar you would be busted even if you were driving OK.


29 posted on 06/26/2013 4:04:56 PM PDT by forgotten man
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To: forgotten man

It’s always an occupational hazard for musicians. Many is the time I’ve been stopped driving home after a gig. And of course you always reek of beer and cigarette smoke which raises their suspicions even more.


30 posted on 06/26/2013 4:09:15 PM PDT by rockrr (Everything is different now...)
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To: MeganC
It's not the country I grew up in anymore, and my fondness for it is only for the America we used to know, but I'm afraid is now long gone.
31 posted on 06/26/2013 4:14:29 PM PDT by LibWhacker
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To: MeganC

“I’m guessing that they will start using them for border inspections after the United States secedes from California.”

So where will that put FR? And how will you manage to eat? CA may be a mess in our cities, but we manage to feed most of the rest of you. I guess if you live in the Dakotas, you can eat all your oil. Seriously, how can you speak in such terms knowing that almost half the people here don’t like what’s been going on any more that you do? I mean I could say that Texas is composed of a bunch of backward-assed $hIt kickers, but I wouldn’t do that either!


32 posted on 06/26/2013 4:15:14 PM PDT by vette6387
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To: Still Thinking

Asl Maryland Governor O’Malley why we need License Plates.

He has raised the registration Fee, the Title fee, The taxes. It’s all about the money.


33 posted on 06/26/2013 4:15:22 PM PDT by Venturer
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.


34 posted on 06/26/2013 4:16:59 PM PDT by loungitude (The truth hurts.)
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To: LibWhacker

Can they tell when people are living in one state and tagging in another state?
Like the thousands who live in Kansas and tag in Oklahoma and Texas, because they can evade hundreds of dollars every year in personal property tax.


35 posted on 06/26/2013 4:17:33 PM PDT by Old Yeller (Cracker Barrel is racist and I demand that they change their name.)
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To: LibWhacker

Cops here use them to check registrations

Sit on side of road and run plate number to see if car
registration is current

One problem - lot of times records that car not registered
when it is

One friend was ticketed and had to go to court to prove otherwise........


36 posted on 06/26/2013 4:27:59 PM PDT by njslim (St)
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To: MeganC

NY state tax Department used to do that here

Troll Newport Mall in Jersey City to look for people
shopping in jewelry stores Sales tax there is 3 1/2 %

NY tax is 8 1/2%

Would send threating letter telling them to pay up differnce
in sales taxes......


37 posted on 06/26/2013 4:31:41 PM PDT by njslim (St)
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To: MeganC

Some companies sell reflective license plate covers
to thwarth these scanners

Problem is illegal in NJ

Will get ticketed for having one on your plate.......


38 posted on 06/26/2013 4:35:08 PM PDT by njslim (St)
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To: LibWhacker
The paperback-size device, installed on the outside of police cars, can log thousands of license plates in an eight-hour patrol shift. Katz-Lacabe said it had photographed his two cars on 112 occasions, including one image from 2009 that shows him and his daughters stepping out of his Toyota Prius in their driveway.

That photograph, Katz-Lacabe said, made him “frightened and concerned about the magnitude of police surveillance and data collection.” The single patrol car in San Leandro equipped with a plate reader had logged his car once a week on average, photographing his license plate and documenting the time and location.

STFU, peasant! The Founding Fathers designed the system so it would become a Totalitarian Police State in 200 odd years.

Nice little family you got there, BTW. Be a shame if something happened to them...

39 posted on 06/26/2013 4:45:41 PM PDT by kiryandil (turning Americans into felons, one obnoxious drunk at a time (Zero Tolerance!!!))
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To: Billthedrill

40 posted on 06/26/2013 4:45:53 PM PDT by wally_bert (There are no winners in a game of losers. I'm Tommy Joyce, welcome to the Oriental Lounge.)
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To: MeganC

I just carry around a bucket of mud - works just as well.


41 posted on 06/26/2013 4:59:09 PM PDT by GreyHoundSailor
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To: LibWhacker

ping


42 posted on 06/26/2013 5:06:29 PM PDT by foxpro2
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To: qaz123

Just last month a homicide in my PA county was solved thanks to LPRs deployed by the Missouri State Patrol—got a hit on the fugitive’s vehicle and now he is awaiting extradition.


43 posted on 06/26/2013 5:09:19 PM PDT by lightman (Prosecute the heresies; pity the heretics.)
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To: lightman
That anecdote will make Big Brother's jackboot much softer when it's hammering my face in...
44 posted on 06/26/2013 5:11:09 PM PDT by kiryandil (turning Americans into felons, one obnoxious drunk at a time (Zero Tolerance!!!))
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To: elkfersupper
I'm still wondering why one needs "licenses" for themselves and their vehicles to peaceably travel from place to place. I thought wars were fought and won over this.

They were fought, they were won, and you don't need a license to drive. Per the vehicle code, only commercial vehicles and drivers need licenses.

Of course, the government can (and will) presume you are a commercial driver. And presume, and presume and presume and presume...

45 posted on 06/26/2013 5:15:54 PM PDT by Talisker (One who commands, must obey.)
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To: MeganC

These “special cams” are NOT part of the CalTrans Traffic Cam system. The cams I commented about are SPY cams.


46 posted on 06/26/2013 5:56:08 PM PDT by TaMoDee ( Lassez les bons temps rouler dans les 2013! Geaux, Pack, Geaux!)
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To: Misterioso

Figures that would be something Satan-in-a-wheelchair would come up with.


47 posted on 06/26/2013 6:25:03 PM PDT by Still Thinking (Freedom is NOT a loophole!)
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To: LibWhacker

I want a portable EMP


48 posted on 06/26/2013 7:06:20 PM PDT by zeugma (Those of us who work for a living are outnumbered by those who vote for a living.)
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To: Adder
Can they be jammed or thwarted?

Print out a picture of the license plate of your local city-hall assemblyman, affix printout to your plates via cellophane-tape, done.

49 posted on 06/26/2013 8:41:46 PM PDT by OneWingedShark (Q: Why am I here? A: To do Justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with my God.)
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To: Talisker

Try not having a license to drive the next time you get pulled over or are involved in a crash. Let us know how that goes.


50 posted on 06/27/2013 1:50:26 AM PDT by FreedomPoster (Islam delenda est)
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