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License Plate Scanners Coming To Dallas PD

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) -The Dallas City Council has authorized the purchase and installation of an automated license plate recognition system.

Dallas police will use the high-tech devices to read the license plates of vehicles on the road. The system scans the data to see if any plate number is connected to a crime.

Along with the approval Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings has another task for Dallas police. “Give you this new tool to put together a policy that this council believes balances the rights of our citizens and fighting crime,” he said.

Dallas police officials now have to come up with a policy on how the scanners will be used.

As Dallas leaders considered acquiring the plate reading system some expressed concerns about privacy issues and the covert compiling of personal data. Mayor Rawlings addressed those worries, saying, “But I don’t want to not do something because it could be used in a detrimental way. It’s our job to use power in a thoughtful and disciplined manner and I expect that we will do that as a city.”

Expressing her concerns about how the scanners will be used, Council Member Angela Hunt was the only no vote. “We should not be maintaining data on our citizens for any period of time unless we have reason to believe they are committing a crime or have committed a crime,” she said adding, “My concern, again, goes to fishing expeditions or abuse of that use.”

Most drivers we spoke to didn’t share Hunt’s worry. Dallas motorist Robin Jackson told CBS 11 News, “I think it’s a good idea for criminals, it’s okay with me because I’m not a criminal. So yeah, I think they should catch those bad guys.”

Jake Glenn of Waxahachie said, “If you ain’t doing anything wrong, you ain’t doing anything wrong. I don’t believe you should have anything to worry about. If you’re a law-abiding citizen doing what you’re supposed to be doing, I don’t think that’s an issue.”

But Dallas motorist Patricia Waller was not so sure. “I just think it’s an invasion of privacy. I don’t think anybody needs to know what’s going on with your business.”

Dallas Defense attorney Peter Lesser doesn’t have a problem with stop light cameras that scan everyone. He’s worried about the possibility of selective enforcment on squad cars, though. “It certainly lends itself to profiling by a police officer, I mean, what’s the test, whose license do you run in? Do you run young long-haired hippies but not 50-year-old white guys with short hair?” He added, “I think you have to have real good guidelines, and then I think you have to follow up on those guidelines.

Dallas plans to purchase more than a dozen license plate scanners. Officials say the readers will be mounted on traffic lights in high crime areas of the City and mounted on DPD squad cars. The council will establish use guidelines in the next 6-8 weeks before the system is rolled out, possibly in April.

Some North Texas police departments are already using license plate scanners – including Plano. Authorities have been using the recognition system for several years. As the police department prepared to purchase more scanners spokesman David Tilley said, “It’s such a valuable tool, as I say, for recovering people’s [stolen] vehicles.”

Officials in Dallas say the technology will be, “a key component of the Dallas Police Department’s crime fighting and crime reduction initiatives including recovery of stolen vehicles and apprehension of wanted persons.”

Inside police vehicles he scanners give a real time alert when a license plate is matched to a list of plates of interest. When a traffic light mounted scans a license plate matching information in the system, alerts can be sent to patrol cars in the area.

The initial purchase of some $750,000 will cover equipment, maintenance, and service for five years. The five-year master agreement includes software and hardware for the addition of more than 100 scanners, at an approximate cost of $2,489,894.

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