By Todd Quinones
CHERRY HILL, N.J. (CBS) – Robert Ford was a wanted man.
Ford was connected by police to eight robberies in South Jersey. But thanks to the Cherry Hill Police Department’s brand new automatic license plate reader, Ford was caught and arrested after the reader picked up his license plate.
“These scan a tag a minute,” Cherry Hill Police Lt. Sean Redmond said.
The readers beep as they read license plates as cars pass by.
Plates are run through criminal databases and patrol cars equipped with the readers give officers instant information if a car is stolen, if the car owner is wanted in connection to a serious crime, or even if the registration is expired.
“If the police car is going one way and the bad guy is going the other way, the license plate reader will pick it up whereas if it wasn’t present you wouldn’t even know. That car could possibly pass you going the other way and you wouldn’t even know it,” Lt. Redmond said.
While law enforcement may love this technology, it has created some privacy concerns namely with the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU is now involved in a lawsuit with the federal government over the license plate readers. The ACLU wants clear regulations and guidelines as to how long law enforcement can hold on to information collected on ordinary citizens not involved in a criminal investigation.
“It’s a core principal in our society that the government doesn’t invade people’s privacy, and collect information about innocent civilians activities just in case we do something wrong,” ACLU Strategist Allie Bohn said.
The Cherry Hill Police Department’s policy is plates not connected to a crime are not entered into the system.
Two patrol cars here are equipped with the license plate readers, and plans are to add a couple more.