Plano police to install license plate readers around city

Plano police car.
Plano PD is installing additional license plate cameras, though some are concerned about its data storage.

In order to have more surveillance on the roads, Plano Police Department is installing license plate readers around the city, primarily those with known higher crime.

These plate readers, similar to those installed on police vehicles, read data off of cars passing by and send it to a central computer system. Then, the data is compared to databases including stolen car records and the Amber Alert database. Installation began June 5.

There is some debate about the privacy implications of these devices, as they scan every car and vehicle passing by. It is unknown if this information is stored. 

Murat Kantarcioglu, a professor of computer science at the University of Texas at Dallas and director of its data security and privacy lab, told the Dallas Morning News that this was cause for concern.

“You will be able to track the entire movements of a person,” Kantarcioglu said. “Imagine a scenario that [all of] Plano is covered with these cameras. Then by looking at the license plate readers and the data that stores, I could be able to figure out when this person left his or her home.”

Plano Police Lieutenant Glenn Cavin told the Dallas Morning News that the data collected from the license plate readers would only be used by the police department for legitimate business and that the department is prohibited from releasing any data.

“There has been full transparency with the community, including the public posting of our directive online,” Cavin said.

Dallas Police Department has used these cameras since 2013, and recently ordered more. The policy in Dallas is that all images are deleted from the system after 30 days, according to Flock Safety, the camera company.

“I think people legitimately have a concern this is part of a slippery slope where we’re slowly giving up bit by bit our privacy,” Dallas trial attorney Quentin Brogdon said to NBC DFW. “We’re giving up lots of privacy and lots of rights.”

Fort Worth also utilizes these cameras. Their system helped catch three suspects and over 100 stolen cars in the first three months it was installed, according to NBC DFW who also says Fort Worth deletes data after 30 days.

“We can’t sell it. We can’t re-use it. We can’t market it,” Garrett Langley, founder of Flock Safety said to NBC DFW. “It’s simply there to solve crime.”

Plano purchased 50 of Motorola’s deployable license plate reader cameras. 40 of the L5Q model, and 10 of the L6Q model. These cameras will cost $100,000 annually, making a $500,000 total with the current 5-year contract. 

“The Plano Police Department has been utilizing ALPR (automated license plate recognition) cameras mounted on vehicles for over a decade,” Cavin said. “They have since led directly to the recovery of stolen vehicles and the apprehension of many wanted suspects.”b

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