North Carolina Considers License Plate Tracking on State Roads

By:  Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.
North Carolina Considers License Plate Tracking on State Roads

The state senate of North Carolina is close to approving a bill that would allow state and local law enforcement to use automatic license plates reader systems to create databases of people traveling on state roadways.

The state House of Representatives passed the measure in May by a vote of 79-36.

The language of the bill defines the proposed tracking devices as:

a system of one or more mobile or fixed automated high-speed cameras used in combination with computer algorithms to convert images of license plates into computer-readable data.

In some of its broadest language, the bill authorizes use of the cameras to:

any agency or officer of the State of North Carolina or any political subdivision thereof who is empowered by the laws of this State to conduct investigations or to make arrests, and any attorney, including the Attorney General of North Carolina, authorized by the laws of this State to prosecute or participate in the prosecution of those persons arrested or persons who may be subject to civil actions related to or concerning an arrest.

In a familiar trope of those advocating growth of the surveillance state, proponents of the bill point to the potential for tracking and capturing fugitives from the law.

"Had this technology been available, at a right of way, it would've been possible to track down the individual who had committed the crime,” said state Senator Gladys Robinson, speaking of a recent case investigated by officers in her home county.

Others, however, recognize the fingerprints of Big Brother on the legislation.

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