Concerns about license plate readers and privacy

LENEXA, Kan. - Technology police use to track criminals is at the center of a debate over privacy. The American Civil Liberties Union is working with lawmakers to make sure information collected from automatic license plate readers is not misused.

The Lenexa Police Department is one of several departments in the area and one of hundreds in the country that use automatic license plate readers to track down criminals. The reader is attached to the back of a police car and takes pictures of license plate numbers and time stamps the location of the car.

The devices also alerts officers when there are warrants and felonies associated with a license plate number.

Major Layman with the Lenexa Police Department said the readers do not collection names, addresses or other personal information.

“It’s just those characters from the license plate. We run it against a database,” she said.

According to Major Layman, the Lenexa Police Department collects about 10,000 license plate numbers per day. The numbers are stored for about 12 to 18 months before they are archived.

The American Civil Liberties Union questions the need for law enforcement to collect and archive this information.

"The ACLU absolutely doesn't see a need to store the information of those license plates that are not suspected of a crime," Holly Weatherford with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas said. "I don't think anyone driving around on streets expects the government to be monitoring and maintaining information about their movements."

Major Layman stresses that storing these license plate numbers can help police solve crimes down the road.

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