Charles County Maryland is getting on the bandwagon of police passive monitoring tools. Here’s the article on the police use of license plate (tag) scanning technology for locating stolen vehicles, stolen or expired tags, and out of date emissions stickers. The device is also effective at locating cars who’s owners may have suspended driver’s licenses or outstanding warrants.
The device works by the video camera scanning and doing optical character recognition (OCR) on the plate images to translate it into numbers and letters. It then compares the license tag to an updated database of tag numbers with Motor Vehicle Administration flags. If there is a match, the officer inside is alerted via a laptop computer.
There are many interesting technical details in the article, including:
- There are two cameras in the standard setup, one pointed forward to scan oncoming traffic, and one on the right side to scan parked cars.
- The scanner works fine in the dark.
- If it can’t distinguish between a 3 and an 8, it simply runs both combinations against its database.
- The device will scan approximately 3000-4000 tags over a typical 8 hour shift.
- The camera is linked to a GPS system, and logs all tags scanned and their location from the past 30 days. So they can look back on historical data if they wish to track your movement in the past.
The last one is particularly scary and big brother-ish. You are being watched all the time. And no doubt the 30 days is arbitrary. I’m sure they can save the data indefinitely if they want to.
The Maryland State police is training officers to operate this system on five additional vehicles. The day is fast approaching when all of you driving is tracked.