Survey of Law Enforcement Officials on Use of License Plate Recognition Technology
Sponsored by NetChoice
A survey of over 500 law enforcement officials found overwhelming support for license plate recognition (LPR) technology and validated its effectiveness, while acknowledging that existing policy and laws protect the privacy of individuals.
Key findings are summarized below. Note that specific questions are referenced in the findings, while much of the related information and graphics are provided through cross-tabulation of responses.
LPR solves crimes and saves lives.
Over 87% of respondents said that LPR technology has been instrumental in investigating Major Crimes, including homicide, assault, arson, and attempted escape (Q3). 60% of respondents state that their access to historical LPR data has saved lives (Q1). Of that 60%, LPR data has been used to solve violent crimes ranging from murder (55.1%) to kidnappings (33.2%) to rapes (31.9%), among many others including human trafficking, terrorism, and narcotics trafficking.
Additionally, within this same group, almost 95% state that legislation prohibiting private entities from collecting and sharing LPR data with law enforcement will, without a doubt, or will probably make it harder for them to investigate serious crimes and/or potentially result in harm or death to citizens.
2. Access to DMV data (required to link an LPR record to an individual) is already controlled under agency policy AND federal law.
Investigators can only link a license plate number to a specific registered owner via Department of Motor Vehicle (“DMV”) records, and 94% of respondents acknowledge that there are policies in place already governing the access and use of this information (Q13). Of this group, 92% of respondents also acknowledge that they must have permissible purpose for accessing DMV data under the Federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA).
3. LPR Data is not being misused, and there are already consequences in place for those that do not obey the rules.
An overwhelming 99.4% of respondents responded that they are not aware of any instance of LPR data being used to track a boss, ex-wife, significant other, colleague, friend, enemy, neighbor, or family member (Q9). In a similar question, 99.8% responded that they are not aware of any instances of LPR being used for profiling or political purposes (Q10).
To deter abuse, severe consequences exist for those that violate policy and misuse DMV data (Q13). Possible termination (90.1%), possible state criminal charges (74.8%), possible reprimand (68.5%) and possible civil legal action (63.9) were mentioned most frequently by respondents.
4. Limiting LPR Data Retention will negatively impact the public’s safety.
The ACLU Report on LPR calls for legislation to limit the retention of LPR data to “days or weeks, not months and certainly not years.” 96.6% of respondents do not feel that this recommendation would best serve the interests of their communities and citizens (Q7).
Vigilant Solutions conducted a survey of law enforcement professionals to get their reactions to the recent attention given to license plate recognition (LPR) technology as it relates to personal privacy. The survey, sponsored by NetChoice, was sent directly to a broad sample of law enforcement contacts via email, and also posted on a number of law enforcement discussion boards and websites. Given the goal of the survey to get law enforcement’s opinion, responses were not filtered in any way, other than eliminating any responses that: (a) could not be properly validated as coming from law enforcement (name, agency and government email address), or (b) were not completed in their entirety. A total of five-hundred and four (504) qualified and completed responses were received.
Respondent comments, as presented in this document, have had some spelling and other basic grammatical errors corrected for readability. The essence of the original comments remains unchanged, and the original unedited comments may be found in the full survey document (available upon request).