Study Shows No Reduction In Crime Due To License Plate Recognition Technology

250px-Closed.circuit.twocameras.arp.750pix250px-FrenchNumberPlates_CopyrightKaihsuTaiThere is an increasing danger posed by new technology to privacy and civil liberties. New technology is being brought online at what seems an increasing rate with little consideration of their implications — or even their efficacy. This includes a license plate recognition (LPR) system being adopted by cities around the world which tracks and identifies the movements of vehicles — and by extension their owners. Now, a study by the National Institute of Justice has found no evidence that LPR actually reduces crime. It does however clearly reduce privacy.

LPR has been used since the 1980s in the United Kingdom to store the dates, times, locations, and plate names of cars.

All of that data has been collected for decades but there appears little value for actually fighting crime as opposed to feeding data in ever growing data banks maintained by the government. Here are the conclusions:

Study 1
General Crime
Lum and colleagues (2011) found no significant difference in the levels of all crime between the experimental license plate recognition (LPR) hot spots and control (no LPR) hot spots during the intervention period and 30 days after. This suggests that deployment of LPR did not have a general deterrent effect on all crimes.

Auto Theft/Theft From Auto and Auto-Related Crimes
There were also no significant differences between the LPR hot spots and control hot spots on auto theft or auto-related crimes during the intervention period and 30 days after. This suggests that deployment of LPR did not have an offense-specific deterrent effect either.

Study 2
Vehicle Theft
Taylor, Koper, and Woods (2012) found no statistically significant differences between the LPR group, the manual plate checking group, or the normal patrol control group based on calls for services (CFS) for vehicle theft during the intervention weeks and during the 2 weeks immediately following the intervention. The multivariate analysis showed that the routes with the manual plate checking saw a statistically significant 75 percent decline in the odds of having a CFS for vehicle theft versus the control group routes, although the effect faded over time. There was no significant change noted for the routes with the LPR.

During the intervention weeks, there were also no statistically significant differences between the groups on vehicle theft based on Uniform Crime Report (UCR) data. However, during the 2 weeks postintervention, there was a statistically significant difference observed. The routes with the LPR had a slightly higher number of vehicle thefts compared to the routes with the manual plate checks or control group routes. Multivariate analysis of the UCR data revealed results similar to those found based on analysis of the CFS data. There was a statistically significant 74 percent reduction in the odds of a UCR-reported vehicle theft in the manual plate check routes versus the control group routes; however, again the effect faded over time. There was no significant effect noted for the routes with the LPR.

The only difference was found to be in the recovery of stolen vehicles, but that difference was described as “a small, statistically significant difference.” There was also a small difference in arrests. However, that marginal difference hardly would justify the program or the loss of privacy.

LPR offers a fascinating example of how technology can develop a purpose and life of its own. There is an irresistible lure of such technology that becomes menacing when coupled with the insatiable appetite of the government for information.

28 thoughts on “Study Shows No Reduction In Crime Due To License Plate Recognition Technology”

  1. I agree soooooooooooo much with this post. I was ab unfortunate soul pulled over, strip searched, car searched, personal belongings searched, arrogantly interrogated, and indignantly released without an apology by state troopers when my license plate popped up as belonging to a wanted fugitive due to a clerical error. The apology I received from the barracks officer in charge….none. The explanation I received…..OOOPS. Did I mention that the trooper threw my keys into the brush off the side of the road and told me….dressed in a skirt suit and heels….to go fetch? Just lovely. And it seems I am not alone in undergoing this sort of ordeal.

  2. Larry are you serious? do you really believe what posted?

    this statement alone is gives credit to the statements by many on the boards of it being used for control

    “LPR in the Law Enforcement world has little to do with revenue generation, but does have to do with alerting Law enforcement to someone that probably has already done something wrong and is on a list for it.”

    in other words because i made a mistake in the past. i should get stopped everytime i pass one of these cameras because the LPR has alerted that LEP my name is in the system.

    or turning that around i was a victim of a crime so again my name is in the system. im driving along minding my business and because of the crime committed against me im to be stopped.

    and seeing as how the article says it hasnt done anything to reduce crime. what exactly is the purpose? the purpose is revenue and control.. it still bothers me that some have been brainwashed to believe that driving is a privilege and not a right. when its the opposite. if it werent then they would have continued to give the buyers the manufacturers deed to the cars and not the title which states that you are being given permission to use said automobile until such time as you’re deemed unfit to maintain said vehicle it will then be removed from your property….

  3. Many of you have no concept of what License Plate Recognition does or have it confused with other technology that might utilize cameras or have one or more of the words in the description of that other technology.
    LPR in the Law Enforcement world has little to do with revenue generation, but does have to do with alerting Law enforcement to someone that probably has already done something wrong and is on a list for it. For instance, It automatically alerts the officer to a stolen car. It automatically alerts the officer of want/warrants associated with the car, and the biggy if it was your child you would scream to have these on every patrol car, it can alert the officer automatically if he has passed a car which is on an amber alert list.

    These are not red light cameras which indeed are installed under the auspices of safety but really are revenue generators, LPR only does exactly what officers can do today but they have to do it manually, taking the number of the plate down and entering it into their system and get back a status on that plate. Infact, manually they get much more information. They get the registration of the car, where that person lives, any outstanding violations, the criminal backgound of the individual, and more. All lpr provides is an alert if that plate is on a list. It doesnt provide anything beyond lic plate number, and maybe make and model of the car. There is no infromation pertaining to owner, their criminal history, where they live, or anything else. A library ID card has more information on you than what the lpr provides the officer above and beyond whether the car is listed on a ‘list’.

  4. Pete Moss,
    I’ll let you explain why we’re gathering all the Police Captain’s personal e-mail meta data on his wife…

  5. I would refer you to what J.H has said. This is not about crime. This is about revenue and worse yet, control of the masses.

  6. We have to exercise “turn about is fair play”. Everyone should carry a hand held camera and have one mounted in the car. Everyone should photograph or video the cops at whatever we see them doing. Next is to audio record what they are saying to each other at the donut shop. Publish all that you see and record that is interesting.

  7. Gene, Video surveillance, both public and private, does help solve crimes. To date, it has not lowered crime. Maybe, after criminals finally wise up, it may lower crime, @ least in the area being videotaped. So, it may just move crime in the future, the same way prostitution, drug, sweeps move criminal activity.

  8. It almost certainly increases “color of law” crimes – when some (not all) police, FBI, etc. use this technology to violate constitutional rights under color of law – without legitimate probable cause or reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing.

    There are few statistics on color of law crimes because many times the motive is not to arrest a citizen but is used for blacklisting, harassment, etc.

    The ACLU has the best statistics to essentially triangulate what is really happening – over 90% of “terrorism” laws are being used on “non-terrorism” cases and “non-criminal” cases. In other words, the vast majority of searches and investigations don’t result in prosecutions of any kind. For example: A rational person may expect if there were 10 searches based on “legitimate” probable cause or reasonable suspicion, it would result in maybe 5 or more prosecutions – the real number is less than 1.

    This is similar to when the FBI exploited the threat of communism to try to destroy Martin Luther King, Jr. – these powers aren’t being used on real criminals or real terrorists.

    The technology we need are body-cameras on police officers to deter color of law crimes.

  9. One of the biggest drawbacks to these systems is that they are fixed and remote. If a stolen or wanted vehicle passes by one of these cameras and lets say it is immediately identified, by the time the police show up it is long gone. It might be somewhat useful if a crime happened in the photo and the license plate was captured. (rare).

    The most effective way to catch wanted or stolen cars is to put the cameras on patrol cars and the stolen / wanted rate goes up dramatically. There is much evidence to suggest that linking wanted persons records associated with vehicle registration and then putting these license plates to hotsheets that the cameras will scan for will catch many fugatives / wanted persons. I know this type of system will work well. But it certainly is up for debate if we as a society want this type of privacy cost.

  10. Let’s see… If vehicles have been equipped with GPS and the like…. Yes… It is myunderstanding that any vehicle created since I think 1999 can be used to track it…. Why do they need LPR to recover stolen vehicles… It is also my understanding that vehicles also are equipped with chips that the police can use to slow down a vehicle…

    But wrt to LPR …. There are no guidelines on how long the information can be stored…. Just because someone’s driving a vehicle does not mean they own it…. Lots of company cars…. Are driven by many different folks….

  11. Or … some really smart tech people developed a product, represented the product as useful in fighting crime to a bunch of gullible administrators and then made a ton of money producing, installing, and maintaining the useless crap. He!! of a sales job.

  12. This technology is a double edged sword since it can validate a claim of innocence if a person is seen being where they said they were, and thus incapable of being in a position to commit a crime. It is like a DNA test in that regards. If I am wrongly accused of a crime, my first thought would be to cry for DNA testing.

    1. You don’t understand Arthur, it will NEVER be used to our advantage.. It will also be used for facial recognition to further track and control us.

      BTW the latest on DNA is that it is not the same throughout the body…

      1. Sorry, but you are wrong since many people have been helped by such technology. It is up to the people involved in the criminal justice system to make it work by doing their jobs honestly and ethically. You can say the same thing about fingerprints and police planting evidence. If you think that there is no possible way for people involved in the justice system to do their jobs, then the technology is pointless as is the whole court system, and we need to abolish it all.

        1. So they throw you a few token bones. It does not change the purpose of the system.

          Yes we should abolish the criminal in-justice system as it stands. I agree with you on that one. 😉

          1. According to IW then there is NO justice system that can work. So we should just simply throw up our hands and go back to the wild west where the biggest thugs ruled with no law. There is no possible system that can work if there are corrupt people willing to do the dirty work and nothing is done to reign them in and punish them.

            1. Randy I would appreciate it if you did not create straw-men and put words in my mouth.

              FYI the “wild west” was a lot more just and less crime ridden than the corrupt society that we live in today.

              The more laws that a society has the more corrupt it is….

  13. I also recall a study (last year? year before?) where the Brits showed that CCTV had no effect on lowering crime either. That this technology fails too isn’t surprising, but what volatic says is correct: it’s about revenue generation and intimidation, not crime prevention. Crime goes down when you address the causations – poverty, desperation, injustice and inequity – but simply trying to “put on a bandage” will never cure the disease.

  14. It’s not about reducing crime. Its about sending out tickets to generate revenue or in the alternate just making sure the average citizen knows that THEY are watching!

  15. The police/security/military industrial complex need not have proof that crime is reduced, they simply instill fear in the populace to justify any and almost all costs associated with supposedly keeping people safe. Cas ein point being: The United States spent more on its military than the next 13 nations combined in 2011 http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/01/07/everything-chuck-hagel-needs-to-know-about-the-defense-budget-in-charts/ and 11 of them are allies!

    Keep people in fear and afraid of shadows and get all the money you need, regardless of its value and effectiveness..

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