Target 11 investigates license plate recognition technology



NORTH STRABANE TOWNSHIP, Pa. - In a matter of 10 minutes, a police cruiser in North Strabane Township scanned the license plate numbers of more than 20 cars.
Three cameras pointed in different directions record every plate that passes.
“That's our eyes,” said officer Dustin Koch.
He showed Channel 11’s Joe Arena how license plate recognition, or LPR, helps them find cars linked to crimes or missing persons cases.
Just last year, this technology led to the capture and arrest of Dr. Robert Ferrante in West Virginia.
He is accused in his wife’s murder.
In just a few minute, Koch’s LPR got a hit on a car with a suspended plate.
“It will show that it is a suspended plate. I'm able to view the picture compare it to what it read and also see a picture of the vehicle,” he said.
South Strabane Police Chief Don Zofchak has been using this technology for about a year-and-a-half and said he already has seen an impact.
“We had a case last month where a DUI came about from a suspended plate,” he said
North and South Strabane police have one database that holds all of the plates it scans.
We asked but they won’t release how many plates they’ve logged or how long they are stored in the system, and that is what worries Pittsburgh’s ACLU chapter.
“These scanners are capable of collecting data of hundreds of thousands of license plates in a month,” said Sara Rose.
An ACLU report found that just 1 percent of the license plate scans are flagged for hits.
Rose worries the information of innocent people is stored, in some cases indefinitely.
“You could literally track somebody's movements for an entire day week or month,” she said. ”We saw your car parked outside a cancer doctor’s office or a fertility doctor’s office. There's some very private information.”
The ACLU would like to see a statewide policy like the one used by state police, who delete their data at the end of each shift.