Automated search facility stolen motor vehicle

Several companies operate independent, non-law enforcement ALPR databases, contracting with drivers to put cameras on private vehicles to collect the information. These data are then sold to companies like insurers, but law enforcement can also purchase access to this commercial data on a subscription basis. Law enforcement agencies will often pre-load a list of license plates that the ALPR system is actively looking for—such as stolen vehicles and vehicles associated with outstanding warrants.

Police officers can also create their own hotlists.

Examination Of Stolen Cars

If the ALPR camera scans a plate on the list, the system sends an alert to the officer in the squad car if it's a mobile reader or the agency if it's a fixed reader. Some hotlists include low-level misdemeanors and traffic offenses. Some agencies use these hotlists to generate revenue by stopping citation scofflaws. ALPRs collect license plate numbers and location data along with the exact date and time the license plate was encountered.

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Some systems are able to capture make and model of the vehicle. They can collect thousands of plates per minute. One vendor brags that its dataset includes more than 6. When combined, ALPR data can reveal the direction and speed a person traveled through triangulation. With algorithms applied to the data, the systems can reveal regular travel patterns and predict where a driver may be in the future. The data also reveal all visitors to a particular location.

However, law enforcement officers can use other databases to connect individual names with their license plate numbers.


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A privacy impact assessment report indicates that the photographs may even include bumper stickers, which could reveal information on the political or social views of the driver. ALPR data is gathered indiscriminately, collecting information on millions of ordinary people.

Without ALPR technology, law enforcement officers must collect license plates by hand. This creates practical limitations on the amount of data that can be collected and means officers must make choices about which vehicles they are going to track.

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Vehicle tracking system - Wikipedia

ALPR technology removes those limitations and allows officers to track everyone, allowing for faster and broader collection of license plates with far reduced staffing requirements. Licenses plates are often added to hot lists because the vehicle is stolen or associated with an outstanding warrant.

Officers may also add a plate number to the list if the vehicle has been seen at the scene of a crime, the owner is a suspect in a crime, or the vehicle is believed to be associated with a gang.


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Hot lists often include low-level offenses, too. Since ALPRs typically collect information on everyone—not just hot-listed vehicles—officers can use a plate, a partial plate, or a physical address to search and analyze historical data. For example, an officer may enter the location of a convenience store to identify vehicles seen nearby at the time of a robbery.

The officer can then look up those plate numbers to find other locations that plate has been captured. Training materials, policies and laws in some jurisdictions instruct officers that a hot-list alert on its own may not be enough to warrant a stop. Officers are instructed to visually confirm that a plate number is a match. Failure to manually confirm, combined with machine error, has caused wrongful stops. Law enforcement claims that ALPR data has been used to, for example, recover stolen cars or find abducted children. However, police have also used ALPR data for mass enforcement of less serious offenses, such as searching for uninsured drivers or tracking down individuals with overdue court fees.

The ACLU estimates that less than 0. Many law enforcement agencies store ALPR data for years, and share it with other law enforcement agencies and federal agencies. The length of time that ALPR data is retained varies from agency to agency, from as short as mere days to as long as several years, although some entities—including private companies—may retain the data indefinitely. The companies then share the commercially-collected data not just with law enforcement but also with auto recovery aka "repo" companies, banks, credit reporting agencies, and insurance companies.

Data collected by private entities does not have retention limits and is not subject to sunshine laws, or any of the other safeguards that are sometimes found in the government sector. ALPR is a powerful surveillance technology that can be used to invade the privacy of individuals as well as to violate the rights of entire communities. Law enforcement agencies have abused this technology.

Automatic number-plate recognition

Police officers in New York drove down a street and electronically recorded the license plate numbers of everyone parked near a mosque. Police in Birmingham targeted a Muslim community while misleading the public about the project. Moreover, many individual officers have abused law enforcement databases, including license plate information and records held by motor vehicle departments. In , a Washington, D. In addition to deliberate misuse, ALPRs sometimes misread plates, leading to dire consequences.

In , San Francisco police pulled over Denise Green, an African-American city worker, handcuffed her at gunpoint, forced her to her knees, and searched both her and her vehicle—all because her car was misidentified as stolen due to a license plate reader error. Her experience led the U.

Aggregate data stored for lengthy periods of time or indefinitely becomes more invasive and revealing, and it is susceptible to both misuse and data breach. Sensible retention limits, specific policies about who inside an agency is allowed to access data, and audit and control processes could help minimize these issues.

One of the better privacy protections would be for police to retain no information at all when a passing vehicle does not match a hot list. Order No. Routine uses of records maintained in the system, including categories of users and the purposes of such uses: Data in NCIC files is exchanged with and for the official use of authorized officials of the Federal Government, the States, cities, penal and other institutions, and certain foreign governments.

Possessions and U. Additionally, data contained in the various "want files," i. Storage: Information maintained in the NCIC system is stored electronically for use in a computer environment. Vehicle identification number; 2. Owner applied number; 3. License plate number; 4. Stolen License Plate File: 1.

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License plate number; 2. NCIC number. Stolen Boat File: 1. Registration document number; 2. Hull serial number; 3.

Auto Theft, Thefts from Motor Vehicles, and Catalytic Converter Thefts

Owner applied number; 4. Serial number of gun; 2. Stolen Article File: 1. Serial number of article; 2. Type, serial number, denomination of security, and issuer for other than U. Treasury issues and currency; 2. Type of security and name of owner of security; 3. Social Security number of owner of security it is noted the requirements of the Privacy Act with regard to the solicitation of Social Security numbers have been brought to the attention of the members of the NCIC system ; 4. Wanted Person File: 1. Name and one of the following numerical identifiers: a.

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