Greeley PD Expanding Use of License Plate Readers Despite Privacy Concerns
The Greeley Police Department is scanning your license plates...and gaining personal information from it.
According to The Greeley Tribune, the department began using license plate readers (LPRs) around 2007 and they have been expanding the practice ever since.
The department currently has two fixed LPRs and two mobile units, the latter of which costs a little over $30,000 each.
Greeley Police Chief Mark Jones would not say where the fixed units are located, but he revealed that one mobile LPR is on a police cruiser, while the other is on a trailer that moves around the city.
An LPR is able to scan a vehicle's license plate number and record the date, time, and location that it completed its scan.
This scan can then show the police important information about the vehicle's owner — everything from if they have a suspended license to if they are a registered sex offender.
The process helps offers identify criminals and stolen property.
In April of 2019, the department's readers recognized nine stolen vehicles, 101 stolen plates, over 4,000 drivers with a suspended license, and almost 700 drivers with active warrants.
According to Jones, the machines can also help police search for suspects and corroborate witness testimonies.
However, many see the LPRs as a violation of their privacy that could possibly target innocent citizens.
Officers have used LPRs inappropriately in the past. In Washington D.C., one lieutenant pleaded guilty to using the devices to blackmail vehicle owners at a gay bar in 1998.
The Los Angeles Police Department considered sending "Dear John" letters to vehicle owners who were scanned near prostitution areas in 2015.
Jones disputes the idea that LPRs are used to target innocent people, stating that the department does not take action for every scan made.
Greeley isn't alone in its use of LPRs, either. Windsor, Denver, Pueblo, and Aurora are also employing the devices.
Whether or not you support the use of these units, it is important to be aware of their existence while you're on the road.