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Thinking About Today#

Automated License Plate Readers According to recently released United States federal contracting data, the Drug Enforcement Administration will be expanding the footprint of its nationwide surveillance network with the purchase of “multiple” trailer-mounted speed displays “to be retrofitted as mobile Automated License Plate Readers platforms.” The DEA is buying them from RU2 Systems Inc., a private Mesa, Arizona company. How much it’s spending on the signs has been redacted.[1]

Vendors say that the information collected can be used by police to find out where a License Plate has been in the past, to determine whether a vehicle was at the scene of a crime, to identify travel patterns, and even to discover vehicles that may be associated with each other. Law Enforcement agencies can choose to share their information with thousands of other agencies.[2]

From Vigilant Solutions Website: [2]#

When lives are on the line, every second counts. Every tool available to help develop leads and solve crimes counts, too. Nationwide, more agencies turn to Vigilant Solutions’ investigative platform as one of those trusted crime fighting tools to help law enforcement develop leads and solve crimes faster.

Developed for law enforcement, by law enforcement, Vigilant’s solution includes the most comprehensive, advanced suite of Automated License Plate Reader (LPR), Facial recognition, analytics and commercial data available to improve safety for officers and communities, investigate crimes such as criminal homicide, forcible rape, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, arson, and kidnapping. Our platform provides Law Enforcement Agency with intelligence to combat broader issues such as narcotics, gangs, organized crime, terrorism and narcotics trafficking. A hallmark of Vigilant’s solution, the ability for agencies to share real-time data nationwide amongst over 1,000 agencies and tap into our exclusive commercial LPR database of over 5 billion vehicle detections, sets our platform apart. Combine your mugshots with our hosted facial recognition gallery and easy-to-use image enhancement tools, another Vigilant exclusive, to boost potential match searches.

Because we’ve worn the badge, we promise agencies that we will never stop innovating, never stop working to make our technology better to serve and protect. That’s a promise agencies can count on. And when you empowered your agency with the right tools, criminals are brought to justice, lives are saved and communities are safer.

The DEA does not release how much of the data it collects is connected to crimes. The nonprofit American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland found that only 47 out of every 1 million plates scanned by police in the state, or 0.005%, were linked to a serious crime. The Atlanta PD captured data from 128.5 million license plates last year; 786,580 of those—0.6%—were suspected of having a connection to a crime. Of 22 million license plates recorded in Austin, Texas during that same period, 3,200 of them—0.01%—were linked to alleged criminal activity.[1]

"The technology is fairly simple, but as they start collecting more and more data and applying more and more algorithms to that, you can get information about people’s travel patterns, where their doctor’s office is, where they sleep at night, or put in the address of a place and see who visited it; an immigrant health clinic, a medical marijuana facility, or even a marijuana grow operation that would be completely legal under state law but illegal under federal law," Maass said. "You could link someone to an abortion clinic, any number of sensitive locations."

Precise details of the DEA's license plate reader program are extremely difficult to pry loose. The DEA declined to comment on either the program in general or its latest purchase of license plate readers; Sherman Green, the Department of Justice contracting officer handling the RU2 deal did not respond to an interview request.

Maass said the DEA augments its own data collection by buying access to commercial databases, including one maintained by Vigilant Solutions of Livermore, California. In January, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency purchased access to Vigilant’s LPR data which reportedly allows investigators to trace plates going back five years.

Some LPR cameras can capture “contextual photos,” which include shots of the driver and passengers. Companies like Palantir Technologies, which was co-founded by controversial venture capitalist Peter Thiel in 2003, make analytics software that can combine license plate data with all manner of other intelligence, including facial recognition technology; officers can access Vigilant’s “Intelligence-Led Policing Package” on their mobile phones.

Law professor Andrew Ferguson, a former public defender and author of 2017’s The Rise of Big Data Policing; Surveillance, Race, and the Future of Law Enforcement, said the DEA “finds itself at the intersection of new technology scandals accusations of secret, and possibly illegal, bulk data collection by the DEA have surfaced in recent years because they maintain both domestic and international jurisdiction and thus can argue the need to use surveillance tools that would not be acceptable in purely local law enforcement.”


Government Surveillance

More Information#

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