How cops read your plates
The technology has been around for a while but now just about every police jurisdiction uses it -- license plate readers that scan numbers and can quickly tell a cop whether the car is stolen, or has backed up tickets.
Police can simply drive along a street and check every car almost instantaneously. Privacy groups worry about police collecting and saving information from people not implicated in crimes -- such as keeping a record of where your car is -- but for law enforcement it's a critical tool.
The Sun's Don Markus provides a behind-the-scenes look at the technology and how it's being used in Maryland, and how state police tried to use it to find a motorcyclist a trooper was chasing moment before he was killed on I-95 when his cruiser collided with a truck.
From Don's story:<
Sgt. Julio Valcarcel wheels his unmarked sport utility vehicle south onto U.S. 1 in Jessup as motorists whiz by in the opposite direction. The Maryland state trooper is not looking to ticket speeders, but rather is on the hunt for stolen cars.
And he doesn't have to consult a "hot sheet" to compare license plate numbers, or even remember the make, model and color of vehicles on the stolen-car list.
Images of license plates pop onto his laptop computer screen as the cars go by. An alarms sounds when the computer finds a stolen plate or car, or even a revoked or suspended registration, information stored in a database updated daily by the FBI and the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration.
"It's constantly taking pictures, looking for license plates," said Valcarcel, who has spent 21 years as a trooper and is now the technical manager of the license plate reader program. "There might not be a violation at the time we capture that read, but the read might be helpful for investigative purposes down the road."