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The Boston Globe

Metro

License plate-reading devices fuel privacy debate

Technology helps police respond to crimes, violations, but broad use, lack of regulations raise privacy worries

CHELSEA — The high-speed cameras mounted on Sergeant Robert Griffin’s cruiser trigger a beeping alarm every time they read another license plate, automatically checking to see if each car is unregistered, uninsured, or stolen. In a single hour of near-constant beeps, Griffin runs 786 plates on parked cars without lifting a finger.

The plate-reading cameras were introduced for police use in Massachusetts in 2008, and quickly proved their worth. The one on Griffin’s Chelsea cruiser repaid its $24,000 price tag in its first 11 days on the road. “We located more uninsured vehicles in our first month . . . using [the camera] in one cruiser than the entire department did the whole year before,” said Griffin.

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