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Drivers worry about privacy with new license plate readers

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Updated: 7/26/2013 11:34 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Somewhere along I-295 near Commonwealth Avenue, eyes are on your vehicle.

Last month, the Florida Department of Transportation put two license plate readers along the southbound lane. A spokesman tells Action News that the system collects partial plate numbers to help monitor traffic levels and speed.

Their purpose is very different than many law enforcement agencies that have signed on in recent years to test the system in local neighborhoods.

The Police Executive Research Forum says 85 percent of law enforcement agencies across the country will use license plate readers in the next five years.

Their intended primary purpose is to aid in searches for stolen vehicles, Amber Alerts and to catch suspected criminals.

This week, U.S. Marshals and from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania came to Northeast Florida to look for Dr. Robert Ferrante after a warrant for his arrest was issued Wednesday.

Ferrante is a University of Pittsburgh professor and researcher who is accused of killing his wife in April by lacing her fertility vitamins with cyanide.

U.S. Marshals thought Ferrante was staying with his sister in St. Augustine, but when they arrived at the home he was gone.

A nationwide BOLO, or be on the lookout notice, was issued to law enforcement agencies nationwide at approximately 6:30 p.m. Thursday, and his license plate number was added to the National Crime Information Center log of wanted persons.

Moments later, Ferrante's vehicle crossed into West Virginia and right by a new stationary license plate reader.

"Without that system, honestly, he probably would not have been located," said Lt. Doug Gunnoe of the West Virginia State Police.

"We would have had to have seen him, had reason to pull him over, and even then we probably would not have run his name through the NCIC database. If we had, it would have been just plain luck."

Gunnoe says Ferrante's plate number triggered the system and officers nearby were notified. They set up a road block near the next toll booth a few miles away, and soon apprehended Ferrante at gunpoint. He is said to have been compliant with their requests.

The West Virginia State Police insists it only tracks vehicles connected to a serious crime, like in the case of Ferrante.

"This isn't for shop-lifters. This is for serious emergencies only. We don't track just anyone. There has to be a very good reason and their plate number has to be entered into a separate system than our local system."

While local police agencies have tested the technology, cost and privacy concerns are mainly why they haven't committed to purchasing the system.

The FDOT installed the license plate readers along I-295 in late June. They are now testing the system for accuracy against cameras that are already being used. Their test is expected to continue for about another year.

Action News is told the exact location of license plate readers is rarely revealed to protect the equipment from vandalism.

Robert Ferrante is now charged with criminal homicide and is being held in a West Virginia jail awaiting extradition to Pittsburgh.
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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Action News Jacksonville

Papakilo - 7/27/2013 12:39 PM
0 Votes
Get facts straight. Driving is no a right! It is a privilege! You must take and pass a driving and visual test! You must pay to have your vehicle registered and annually pay for a license tag! The TAG does not belong to you. It belongs to the State! If the city, county, state, or federal government wants to see your TAG, driving license, registration and proof of insurance....they can. You are driving on public roads and they have every right to see, photograph, or record your car and TAG. By law, if you bothered to read your driving laws, you are required to maintain a clean, lite, TAG on your vehicle at all times. As for the new additional capability of reading TAGs, it provides a faster means of locating stolen vehicles, car jackings, kidnappings, and catching criminals. If you happen to be a criminal or shady individual with ill intentions, fine, I agree with you, go ahead and fight against TAG readers. Currently, many of the TAG readers are being used at high accident intersections in the city. I have personally noticed the number and frequency of accidents reduced at intersections I frequent. I expect the city or police department to make a load of money from fines, the real reason is to reduce accidents and catch drivers who carelessly run traffic lights. I believe the initial problem of standardizing/ lengthening the time of the yellow/caution light has been resolved. Another time saver for the TAG reader has been in use on Florida toll roads, to make it easier for drivers to travel without stopping every 10 or so miles at a toll booth to pay the toll. Again, driving on a public road requires laws which must be followed. If you want to ride a horse, cow, goat, or mule that's another story. For a civilized society to exist rules must be followed, where folks don't follow rules, laws must be made and fines paid for disrespecting those laws. Rules and laws keep the majority of citizens safe from harm and promote civil order.

Realchange - 7/27/2013 11:54 AM
0 Votes
For those that saying driving is not a right. Our forefathers considered stealing a horse , the only dependable land transportation in it's day, a capital offense. That is you deprive a man or person of the right to travel by stealing or removing their transportation without due process a crime. Yet now we have these naysayers saying it's privilege that can be removed without due process of the law and hearing by jury of your peers. Explain to anyone how they can have any freedom in this country now days without a car. Government has taken away my right to seat a jury trial from the 7th amendment to bill of rights. They are afraid a veteran wanting to seat a jury so they can see his evidence is unlawful. How you say by having judges over turn the Constitution with something called the Fere's doctrine which prevents you from seating a jury to decide your case. Imagine that the government afraid of what the citizens might learn from sitting on jury for veterans rights. Do you really want trust them with tracking you like an animal everywhere you go ? Do you really want step out on your back yard and wonder at night is there drone watching you as well and scanning your home? We are headed that way. People seem to think giving up all their freedoms is ok. That is till it gets used against them or loved one then they want help. I trusted the government to do the right thing when I found out I was poisoned from my military service. They did not they laughed about it, and refused to do so. Keep that in mind when politicians and sheriffs tell you the system will never be abused. When someone tells you the government follows the Constitution they do not. Veterans who want jury trials are living proof of an abusive system. Why would a government who claims to be for the people by the Constitution be afraid of veterans they poisoned seating a jury trial? Then ask yourself do you really want trust them watching and recording everything you do all the time every time.

whosaysnocan - 7/27/2013 10:05 AM
2 Votes
Hey realchange~I have been praying for the VA to get people like you taken care of. You deserve the care and support for your service to our country. When I read that "they" would not hire the much needed people to get through the back log at the VA, my heart sank for people like you. I pray you can get the representation you deserve to get the help you need. I also pray that those that are gaming the system get caught and have to repay what they have taken. On the topic of this report, I care about our privacy. Knowing this is happening will cause the "bad guys" to remove the tags or render them unreadable. Such as it is whenever law enforcement comes up with ways to track people.

cabgx2 - 7/27/2013 9:39 AM
1 Vote
DO NOT BREAK THE LAW!!! Driving is not a right!!! This is not a privacy issue, it is a law enforcement tool. But the only way people have a chance of having the cameras taken down, is throwing the "privacy" card.

imtellin - 7/27/2013 6:47 AM
0 Votes
want to screw the system up ??? throw some dirt on your tag !!! let them try to read that !!!get pulled over for dirty tag,, it will inform you they care more about your comings & goings,than preventing real crimes !!! then let the naysayers deny they care.. as is typical, they won't care until this is used against them.. what bothers me about this, is our tax dollars are being used to compile data for private industry ... the ACLU NEEDS TO STEP IN TO THIS AND SOON !!!

wishmistress - 7/27/2013 4:09 AM
0 Votes
I care Real.

Realchange - 7/27/2013 3:54 AM
0 Votes
Trust the government? They have database entering where you are tracked at storing that data. Many of you say that's fine I don't care. Maybe you don't care that soon your employer will have access to that data. Maybe you don't care people who have to stand up to the government abut the wrong it does will be tracked like animals. Maybe you don't care that it sets precedents for new invasive procedures down the road for your children and family. This system will be abused. How do I know try being a sick desert storm vet when the government says you can't be sick go away and die you will never be service connected.
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