Your car’s travels are being tagged

Fayette County Sheriff Barry Babb shows location of one tag recording device on a patrol car. Photo/Ben Nelms.

Officials see license plate recording as crime-fighting tool

Several local law enforcement agencies in Fayette County are using tag-reader cameras on some patrol units to assist in identifying stolen vehicles or the owners of those vehicles who are wanted in connection with various crimes.

While different systems are used in Fayette County, each agency said the data collected from the vast majority of moving or parked vehicles is not used and remains in storage until the data is deleted.

While not an intended use specific to local law enforcement agencies, the fact remains that current technology would allow for a given vehicle to be tracked since the location of the tag reader camera, as well as the subject vehicle, is included in the software program.

While some citizens see tag reader cameras as yet another way to invade their privacy in an increasing sea of data collection methods, local law enforcement agencies maintain that the cameras are another tool that can be employed to apprehend law-breakers.

Peachtree City Police Chief H.C. “Skip” Clark said the department implemented the use of four Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) tag reader units in 2011. The units were purchased during vehicle acquisition and as an option to the department’s in-car video system offered by Coban Technologies.

Clark said the units compare a downloaded database to captured images taken by the camera unit.

“When the ALPR sees a match to the database, the unit gives the officer both a visual and audible alert. Our units download updated databases daily that contain offenses such as wanted/stolen vehicles/tags, wanted persons, terrorist watch lists, sex offenders, suspended registrations, insurance violations and other registration violations,” Clark said.

Clark said the data generated from units integrates into the department’s 44-terabyte video server and currently remains in secure storage until manually purged. The captured tag images currently only utilize 4 gigabytes of space.

The ALPR units do not provide instant feedback/returns as to the identity of the vehicle’s owner, the chief said. This is only accomplished if an inquiry is made through the Georgia Crime Information Center in accordance with established requirements, Clark said.

The system can also be used to search for partial tag matches that have been provided by officers, victims, or witnesses, Clark added.

As for the amount of time the data is stored, Clark said that data has not been purged since its beginning two years ago.

Clark said the department does not currently share data or deposit it into any national repository for ALPR data. It is maintained in house and is only accessible by one officer, he said.

Peachtree City Police will add one additional ALPR this fiscal year in order to afford each of the four shifts the use of the system as well as the department’s Community Response Team, Clark said.

The Fayette County Sheriff’s Office currently uses a data storage system by California-based Vigilant Solutions. Sheriff Barry Babb said the former tag reader system used on one patrol vehicle in-house since 2009 was abandoned after numerous problems with that system.

Babb’s office currently has seven vehicles outfitted with tag reader cameras that are programmed to capture a series of numbers such as those found on license plates, though potentially anything bearing a set of numbers, such as a mailbox, can activate the camera.

Once read, the license plate is checked against the Vigilant Solutions state and national “hotlist” database that lists both vehicles reported stolen or involved in criminal activity and owners with an outstanding warrant. If found on the hotlist, the information is provided to the deputy immediately, Babb said.

Though only in use for just over a month, Babb said the system has already assisted in the retrieval of one stolen vehicle and the apprehension of eight wanted individuals.

“It is important to note that this data contains no personal identifying information and the data will only be searched for legitimate law enforcement purposes. There are controls in place which limit how the data can be accessed and rules for how to use it,” said Babb.

The tag reader data sent to Vigilant is stored on the company’s servers in metro Washington, D.C. Babb said his office determines how long the data is stored before being erased.

“I understand that data storage is a topic of concern. Agencies have found that the data can be invaluable in all types of investigations from missing persons and theft cases to armed home invasion robberies and homicides. The value of this tool can be very significant. That is why I am carefully considering the minimum amount of time we will retain detection data and still be effective in criminal investigations. At this time we do not have a defined retention period as we have only been operating a little over a month,” Babb said.

“I am considering erasing all data after one year or less. No one in public safety knows what the best position is on retention and sharing of this data,” Babb said. “We tend to err on the side of caution and hold onto data because you never want to lose something that might solve crimes, especially those that are violent in nature.”

Babb said Vigilant is audited to insure compliance with its agreement with local agencies to delete the data within the specified timeframe. Vigilant maintains that it has no data-sharing agreements with other local, state or national agencies. If sharing were to occur it would be the decision of the specific agency to do so, Babb said.

As for the agencies the sheriff’s office shares with, Babb said those include most law enforcement agencies in Georgia. Requests from agencies outside the state are decided on a case-by-case basis, Babb said.

Below, Fayette County Sheriff Barry Babb shows location of one tag recording device on a patrol car. Photo/Ben Nelms.



The Fayetteville Police Department recently began using the Vigilant Solutions system and has four patrol cars outfitted with tag reader cameras.

As is the case with the sheriff’s office, Police Chief Scott Pitts said data is stored in Vigilant’s secure law-enforcement-only data center.

License plate reads will be stored on local machines for no more than 31 days and, by agreement, will be retained by Vigilant for one year.

At the end of the one-year term, the Vigilant system automatically deletes the data, Pitts said.

As it pertains to data-sharing, Pitts said Fayetteville data is shared with other law enforcement agencies on the Vigilant server if they wish to receive the information.

The Tyrone Police Department does not currently use a tag reader camera system.

Parker
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Being tagged

Being tagged while driving is nothing to worry. It the problem of our country everything law enforcement implements to give us better security we unintentionally criticize on that without thinking that it for better protection of us. Reality about the theft it self our carelessness if we allow authorities that do what is better for us they definitely implement more new rules and regulations.

kmolnar9
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Let's chase expired tags instead of...

While you are at it, go by Dunkin Donuts and get yourself a dozen! All you have to do is sit on your lazy butt and give tickets to people driving with expired tags.
My husband was a cop for Atlanta and I am proud of him and doing the right thing. He was never interested in being a tax colletor for the city!

kmolnar9
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Let's chase expired tags instead of...

I just read a story on the Citizen that within one week two banks have been robbed within the same area. So instead of being proactive and looking for perps that rob at gunpoint the citizen that has an expired tag is being flagged down?! Many families are making sacrifices due to the economy and having to make tough choices of what they can afford to buy or pay for first. Sorry a cop chasing expired tags is not helping my community at all. What is the point of being a cop if you are only going after expired tags. You are no cop at all, why I would call that a tax collector with a gun!

Concerned Citizen
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kmolnar9

I hope your husband is proud of you! Trashing his brethren with your foolish assumptions is a disgrace to his service. You have no right to bash officers going after expired tags. If you don't want a ticket, pay your taxes like the rest of us. To assume cops are neglecting true crime to fill the coffers is a joke. If you feel so strongly about it, speak to a police officer and learn the facts. Tell your husband I appreciate his service but question his taste in women.

kmolnar9
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Instead of Concerned Citizen you should be Useless Citizen

Useless Citizen and just for fun (Please, just tell me what to do)

This is the problem with this country, people are accepting that they are part of the herd and can no longer think for themselves! Well I can at least say that I am a strong person with integrity and respect for others. My husband can only respect a women that can actually think and not be part of the crowd. So go on and be useless to society as most people are that are herded around. I am proud of who I am and believe that the government is only trying to find more ways to take money from citizens. How can that be shameful in believing that you should be stopped by a cop by actually committing a crime that can put others in danger. How can it be shameful believing that cops should be looking the thugs in the area frequented by people banking, shopping. If that is something to be ashamed about the way I feel what cops should be doing then I wear that with pride! My husband never wasted his time go after people for expired tags unless the vehicle looked like it had people that were up to no good. My goodness, a cop that thinks about chasing bad guys is awesome. The cop going after the mom that is desperate to get to the grocery for food or milk for her family is a waste of time.
So person who commented, you are obviously stupid and maybe a wife/kid beater. Get a life and stop sounding so upset about my comment. You are useless aren't you! Trying to personally attack me when it just cracked my husband and myself up! That was funny, I am just trying to figure out what kind of government job or hand out you get.

jamijuneevans
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lets look at why the county is really investing in this thing

this device is truly about funding the city / department by handing out registration violation tickets. up till now the local law had to SEE you and feel that you have violated a law, than run your tag to see if you have any violations on your record. Now they can sit back and watch the money roll in to their pockets for every one that is 1 day late on registering their vehicle. I work at an emissions stand and every day at least 1 person comes in with a ticket in their front seat. The system is flawed in the sense that if a cop sees you are out of registration they are required to pull you over and site you. on top of that they are by law not to allow you to drive your vehicle away from that traffic stop. Meaning you are to be towed away. Unless the cop is a nice person to turn away after he/she hands you a $200 ticket. for these pilots in Fayette county it is a headache. If you are out past your B.day and have not paid your tag and got an emissions test you cant drive to the emissions place (legally) and have your car inspected. and Heaven forbid they fail their test. than they by law CAN NOT register their car because they cant drive around to have it repaired. and drive the necessary 150 miles to get their car ready to pass.

In the state of Texas and possibly more. It is Illegal for an officer to pull a vehicle over for expired registration. it was deemed a Money maker (i.e. speed trap, or under 10 mph violation)I bet if Ga. had this law in place these devices would not be sold here/ bought.

Theprez
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It gets the bad guys off the streets

You could do like me, my birthday is in Nov, my trucks were inspected in Sept, just mailed my check to the tag office, now I may forget to put on the new sticker like last year but guess what, I was pulled over by one of these fancy camera cars in Richmond County and was given a courtesy reminder to put my stickers on, the camera/computer told him I was current just forgetful. We talked about the camera for a few minutes and he told me a deputy yesterday was able to arrest a guy from Alabama that had been on the run for 42 months, so back off and look at the good they will do. Also if they pull over a persons that has warrants and could be armed and dangerous they can call for immediate back up and reduce their rick of injury or death at the hands of the pond scum that think the world owes them

jamijuneevans
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i aggree with what good it is doing

I like the fact that it can do some good in tracking down BAD people, but to have the system 99.9% of the time pulling over grandma/grandpa because they forgot to go to the tag office or unable to due to illness, or other law abiding citizens that let a simple tag slip their mind during their birthday. this system IS to pull over people with expired tags for $200 each offense. (money maker) it just so happens to .01% of the time stop a really BAD person. If the State required an officer to hand out warning tickets for expired tags than the person that forgot to pay it can actually pay their tag instead of a $200 ticket. after 1 year expired fine hand out a ticket tow their car, lock them up, suspend their license. what ever you want but there are ALOT of poor people that cant afford the gas in their cars much yet a tax bill that is absolute and in some cases unaffordable.

DrKurt007
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Tag Readers....

My office sits near the very busy intersection of Hwy's 54 & 85. There is a Fayetteville police officer utilizing the "Tag Reader" technology that sits in front of my office pretty often, and I can tell you by first hand experience that the cars driving by with their boom boxes vibrating my office goes down in direct correlation to the officer monitoring traffic.View it as you may, however,I certainly appreciate any technology that makes the police officer's job safer and more effective. Another theory of mine is that if you are strict on traffic enforcement,your area will be safer as it directly decreases the amount of petty theft, home burglaries, and crimes of convenience.

kenwmill1
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A good idea!

Putting technology to work can definitely help us to preclude criminal activity in our county. Many criminals use stolen and/or improperly registered vehicles in their 'criminal travels'. Catching the criminal element before they can perform their criminal trade makes a lot of sense. The task of keeping our county residents and commercial establishment workers safe is getting tougher and tougher.
Use this technology effectively, but also utilize the information gathered carefully (protect the innocent!). None of us want our privacy violated, but I suppose we take that chance every time we log-on to Facebook, LinkedIn, or even making purchases on-line!

Bruce Jordan
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.

.

Bruce Jordan
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Some people complain over the craziest things.

Big deal. If your license and registration are good and your not wanted, it will never affect your life. If you are, then it should affect your life.

G35 Dude
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Mr Jordan
Quote:

Big deal. If your license and registration are good and your not wanted, it will never affect your life. If you are, then it should affect your life.

Do you promise not to call my wife and tell her where I was? LOL I'm OK with running the tag to verify wants, warrants, insurance, etc. I'm just not sure about storing the data. At least not until laws are passed stating how this information can be used. Please don't ask me to just trust the government.

Spyglass
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Is there location info retained also?

We are from the Govt and we are here to help you.

NUK_1
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No worries!

The typical response from these Big Brother types is "if you aren't doing anything wrong, what do you have to worry about?" Then, you have a huge industry of law enforcement enforcing some ridiculous laws, a thriving prison system and probation services.......yeah, good luck seeing that change. Too many jerbs for too many people and too much money to ever see this change in my lifetime.

Bruce Jordan I guess still makes his living being in law enforcement so he'll be very supportive of anything like this. Of course.

Evil Elvis
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The Rubicon is ever-vanishing in our rear view

Why bother even explaining this? It isn't as if the public's opinion on it actually matters. No public approval was sought out. At least Babb is an elected official. No clue who you would vote against in Peachtree City if you do not like the idea of data vacuums on cop cars.

Here's the bottom line: Whilst our local LEA does a fine job tracking down all the two- and three-bit hoods that cross certain county lines in the pursuit of ill-gotten gain, they are also eagerly joining the disturbing trend of full militarization of domestic police. There was an example recently of a rather disturbingly full profile put together of a person using nothing more than geodata from police car plate readers.

The early results of usage of these plate scanners across the country paints a clear picture: They are almost exclusively used to issue citations for expired registration. In other words, low risk money collection. Dollars ... always the F'n dollars.

I'll give Babb some props for public disclosure. Let's not take that next fun step to tanks, drones, robocops, what-you-will. PTC PD already is dressing like something out of a community theater version of Battlestar Gallactica.

moelarrycurly
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.

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daveskeys
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Finally....glad to see this system

Saw this system being used in other Counties and glad to see we are finally utilizing it. A great way to get true threats to our County off the streats. The only people that have to worry is those who are breaking the law.

Evil Elvis
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You feel nice 'n safe now, vato?

I suspect simply typing "blah" over and over will more accurately and succinctly convey your profounditry.

Privacy matters even when one has nothing to hide.

SPQR
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right way or wrong way

if you're trolling for a tag numbers on a wanted list OK.

If you are trolling everything you see and putting it on record for future reference welcome to 1984.

Unfortunately to few know the difference.

moelarrycurly
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spqr

1984. My thought exactly when I read this story. Almost 30 years late.

Does anyone want this? No. One way to fight it? Live by the rule of law and stay out of trouble.

Technology, artificial intelligence and electronics have become part of the fabric of our lives. The use of common sense, sound reasoning, respecting privacy and doing the right thing...seems those might become secondary to some of what is going on.

Did you see this story of the $500. drone that crashed on the ground next to a businessman in Manhattan? With a camera and just filmed away (illegally) hundreds of feet in the air until it crashed into a building.

http://news.cnet.com/8301-17852_3-57605708-71/drone-crashed-almost-hit-m...

kmolnar9
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spgr

it is amazing how people will accept losing their rights?! The average person is okay with the drones since they more then likely feel I am not doing anything wrong. But the more ways our rights are violated more then likely that person will not be in compliance with the law one way or another. Then they will think what did I do wrong. They fail to realize that little by they were okay with violation of their rights and did nothing about it.

SPQR
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MLC

Again the famous Walt Kelly(Pogo) Quote. "We see the enemy and they are us".

moelarrycurly
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SPQR- We now

have a generation growing up who will, on many days, talk to their Siri more than they will to another human being. Yes, you are right, we are our own worst enemy.

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