Ask ELi: Does ELPD Use Automated License Plate Readers?

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Monday, December 23, 2019, 8:00 am
Alice Dreger

Note: Alice Dreger filed this report before she was put in “reporting jail” and restricted to fundraising duties at ELi.

East Lansing Info (ELi) runs a service called Ask ELi to Investigate. A reader sent in this question:

“I recently read an article about surveillance technologies and was curious to see which if any our police department uses. I am especially curious about whether they use automated license plate readers. A quote from the article follows. Thanks.”

The reader included the following quotations from the article:

“Automated license plate readers (ALPRs) are high-speed, computer-controlled camera systems that are typically mounted on street poles, streetlights, highway overpasses, mobile trailers, or attached to police squad cars. ALPRs automatically capture all license plate numbers that come into view, along with the location, date, and time. The data, which includes photographs of the vehicle and sometimes its driver and passengers, is then uploaded to a central server.”

The article continues, “Vendors say that the information collected can be used by police to find out where a plate has been in the past, to determine whether a vehicle was at the scene of a crime, to identify travel patterns, and even to discover vehicles that may be associated with each other. Law enforcement agencies can choose to share their information with thousands of other agencies.”

We asked East Lansing Deputy Police Chief Steve Gonzalez for an answer to this question. He responded:

“That’s an easy one. No, we do not have or use any ALPRs. Nor do we have access to any ALPR databases.”

He added, “The article you linked from the reader listed several pieces/types of technology. ELPD does not possess any of those items listed except Body Worn Cameras.”

Gonzalez also noted that ELPD has a Surveillance Technology Use and Acquisition policy in place and available for public view.

I passed on this info to our reader, who responded, “Unless I am missing something, it seems he fully answered the question. He even looked at the article and addressed use of those other technologies. Impressive. Please feel free to post it.”

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