SPRINGFIELD, Mo–Law enforcement in Missouri is getting a boost from automatic license plate readers, but it’s not without controversy.The license readers help police find stolen vehicles.
Senate Bill 1040 was introduced as a way to put limitations on the storage and sharing of information that’s collected by the readers. The Lee’s Summitt lawmaker says it’s information that should not be allowed to just live on a server.
The license plate readers can be mounted on patrol cars or alongside roadsides and bridges. High-speed cameras and software are used to capture images of license plates. Plate numbers are scanned and cross-checked with numbers included on a hot list. If a plate hits, officers are alerted and can pursue or pull over the vehicle.
“My fear is that this information could be sold to a marketer or misused by somebody for non-law enforcement reasons,” according to Missouri State Senator Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit.
Kraus calls it an invasion of privacy to allow police to track information about law-abiding citizens who have committed no crimes or traffic violations.
“So what were trying to do is protect individual privacy cause these are law-abiding citizens.”
Springfield Police say the readers allow officers to focus on potential crimes in progress.
Springfield Police officer Dustin Donaldson says, “when it detects a problem or a bad plate when it cross references it to that hit list. Once it does that we can see what kind of hit it is whether it’s a potential wanted person or stolen vehicle.”
Kraus says law enforcement can use the information for warrants for 30-days and one year for ongoing criminal investigations.
“If it’s collected for law enforcement purposes, then we can use it for law enforcement purposes,” Kraus says.
The Missouri Lawmaker is confident his bill would pass
“It would pass cause we are protecting individuals information from being collected and stored in a database for an unlimited period of time.”
Kraus tells us the Senate Bill was referred to the committee on criminal justice. It will have to pass the committee by a majority vote before moving on to the full house for a vote.