Guilt-tripping Radar Speed Signs Could Soon Read Your Plate

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Modern society seems to be divided into two camps — those who say, “If you aren’t doing anything wrong, why would you have a problem with [expanded government power A]?” and those who drop their copy of Reason in horror as each new measure designed to make society “safer” erodes their perceived freedom just a little bit more.

The former group will cheer this news, though the latter camp will surely decry our steeper descent into a Surveillance State. Those annoying roadside signs that flash your current speed might soon record your plate number.

Between CCTV cameras in and around businesses, photo radar, red light cameras, and automated licence plate recognition (ALPR) cameras in police cars (and on certain highways, crossings, and checkpoints), we’ve grown used to the idea that we’re constantly on camera. Not happy with it, in many cases, but used to it nonetheless.

According to Quartz, U.S. federal contracting data shows that the Drug Enforcement Agency wants to go beyond its existing ALPR network and place cameras in radar speed signs. Usually, these trailer-mounted signs are placed on collector or residential roads where residents or police complain about a sustained speeding issue. Solar power keeps them running remotely.

ALPR cameras stash your plate data for a varying length of time, allowing law enforcement to look for vehicles involved — or suspected of being involved — in crime, though they can also be used to fine you for driving with expired plates, etc. Given its mandate, the DEA isn’t concerned with an otherwise law-abiding citizen’s slightly expired tags. They’re on the lookout for big fish. Still, that doesn’t mean the data can’t be passed on to local law enforcement.

The document shows the DEA intends to award a sole-source contract to Arizona’s RU2 Systems Inc. for the speed signs, then convert them into their intended dual-function role. “These platforms are in high demand by DEA division offices across the country, and will be utilized on a continuous basis for constant and targeted LPR acquisition efforts in rural and difficult to cover areas where LPR fixed or other mobile applications are not effective or available,” the document reads.

Covering more ground is what this initiative is all about, but civil libertarians will certainly have a problem with more ALPRs on America’s roads. It’s not just plates ALPRs take photos of, either — some record images of the drivers. With that data, anyone can track a vehicle’s movements, seeing where the owner was (or went) on a given day. In short, it is seen as a violation of privacy. Some states place limits on how long law enforcement can retain collected plate data; most do not.

The proliferation of DEA cameras along highways in the Southwestern U.S. has already prompted a backlash from the ACLU.

[Image: RU2 Systems]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Stuki Stuki on Oct 05, 2018

    The elephant in the room, are license plates themselves. No different than the "papers" the indoctrinati are told were somehow diiiiferent in the Soviet Union. Of course the rancher is going to use the tag on his livestock for whatever he darned well pleases. As that is why he branded them in the first place. Indocrinati being indoctrinati, the pagan god of "demooocraciii" will be just as effective dealing with this as they were closing Gitmo. Over time, cameras will be cheap and prevalent enough that anyone can be recorded anywhere. Hence will be. But thankfully not just by taxfeeders and ambulance chasers on the make. But also by civic minded individuals, who will put every car and driver's whereabouts every second up for anyone in the public to access. Searchable by easily read license plates. Maybe then, the drones will catch on. If not, at least some in the enforcement apparatus, who tend to make enemies, will start lobbying for "exceptions." As the privileged always do wrt the progressive idiocy they champion for "those other people." Which, with any luck, can get the ball rolling on hollowing out the nonsense.

  • Mike-NB2 Mike-NB2 on Oct 06, 2018

    Turning law enforcement into a profit centre for government is never a good idea. I recall years ago a judge commented that law enforcement needed some inefficiencies built into it. Now back to my copy of Reason that I dropped on the floor...

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