Ontario is the latest police force to use sweeping, high-tech police surveillance and monitoring systems built into police cars. The police department will have a mobile licence plate reader to scan and track up to 3,600 license plates per minute that might be in camera range of the police vehicle.
According to the Mansfield News Journal, the unit comes via a grant from the Ohio Homeland Security. These license plate scanners compare tags scanned against a hot list of wanted vehicles, that can be shared with law enforcement in all 50 states. Each license plate is scanned, compared against the hot list for matches, and the data is stored, with the exact GPS location. If the system find a hit, the officer in the police cruiser is immediately notified, and can take action while in proximity to the vehicle with the match.
Typically, these license plate scanning systems are used to locate stolen cars, track Amber Alerts, and locate drivers who may have outstanding criminal warrants for failure to appear in court, or be driving on suspended licenses.
But these systems can be used for more chilling purposes. Ontario’s Safety Service Director says flat out that this system can be used to retroactively search for license plates that were spotted in the past in certain locations. He mentioned that this data mining could be used to locate burglary or robbery suspects.
This means if you know the time of a burglary, and the license plate scanner was driving by the area, it can recall what cars might have been parked nearby while the crime was happening. But the implication is that all data from citizens who are suspected of no wrongdoing is being recorded at all times, and shared with law enforcement agencies nationwide.
And just what do burglary suspects have to do with homeland security, anyway? Clearly, this is a giant step to a government surveillance state, with questionable oversight, and little public dialog on the matter.
What are the checks and balances for such a surveillance web? Where is the debate about the civil liberties implications?
Ironically, in the same article about the actions of the Ontario City Council, the council is considering removing fluoridation from the water supply, because it is costs money and “might be detrimental to health”. Public water supply fluoridation is one of most successful, safest, and cheapest public heath efforts ever imagined, with more than 60 years of research and data to back it up.
It is truly sad to see the government spending billions to monitor our every move, yet questioning spending pennies per citizen to for a meaningful public health benefit.