Local community considers license plate readers to assist law enforcement

YPSILANTI TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WXYZ) — License plate readers, a technology marketed as a force multiplier, bring public attention to law enforcement.

One of the biggest companies providing them, Flock Safety, says its license plate readers are used to collect data on more than a billion vehicles every month in 42 states. Is it smart policing or is Big Brother getting too big?

For every vehicle that passes the license plate reader on Tyler Road in Van Buren Township, it records the plate, make, model, color and unique features like a bike rack or bumper sticker. -shocks.

Now the township of Ypsilanti plans to buy about 60 such cameras, which has led to a debate over license plate data.

Van Buren Township Police Chief Jason Wright thinks of a mother’s horrific cry for help when he hears people asking about license plate readers, also known as name of LPR.

Wright says that when a witness gives a vehicle description or plate information, these cameras can help police spot them quickly.

For two children who were allegedly kidnapped by their mother’s menacing and dangerous ex earlier this year, that meant everything.

“Within about six to eight minutes, the Canton Township Police Department encountered the vehicle, pulled a traffic stop, and we picked up the children very quickly,” Wright said.

This is a story that the leaders of Ypsilanti Township have heard. Struggling with a shortage of law enforcement, township leaders say they wondered if they could help the Washtenaw County Sheriff police the township more effectively by purchasing about 60 license plate readers and placing most at entry points to the township.

Ypsilanti Township Attorney Douglas Winters said the township is working on policies with the sheriff’s office that respect your rights while holding police accountable.

“It’s just another tool in the sheriff’s toolbox, if he sees fit to move forward,” Winters said.

Lead attorney for the ACLU of Michigan, Phil Mayor, said it was a slippery slope.

“Giving massive amounts of data to the government is giving the government a loaded gun,” the mayor said.

He says if the public approves of LPRs with strict guidelines and limited use, he should expect that over time the government will find more ways to use the data, putting civil liberties at risk. .

“What Ypsilanti offers is to have cameras that follow every car that enters or leaves the canton. This, especially combined with other data, would allow the government to track people everywhere,” the mayor said.

Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry L. Clayton is responding to concerns from people who have heard concerns about the accuracy of LPR information and who will have access to the data.

“There are serious concerns about their unregulated use. I share these concerns as you share all these concerns. And I’ve said it before: I don’t want a Big Brother state,” Clayton said.

A proposed plan would retain data for 30 days and limit sharing. It wouldn’t be shared with ICE, for example.

“I think there are a number of technologies that can be abused or misused. That’s why the sheriff is offering a policy on how it can be used,” Winters said.

People in the community have mixed reactions.

“If something really bad happens, a hidden camera somewhere can find that person’s license plate and from there investigators can do what they need to do,” Kirk Shack said.

“I think it’s a good idea. There’s a lot of things going on in this world that need to be recorded,” Kyle Grover said.

“It feels really dystopian to me, honestly,” said Magdalena Rieder.

Bill Sizer said, “My first impression is that it’s some kind of invasion and I’m not sure they’d get it all right.”

The Ypsilanti Township board is expected to discuss the plan at its next council meeting on July 19.