Monday, July 29, 2013

Is There a Meeting Tonight?

From our friends at FMG Publications, publishers of American COP, comes this great story:

When police in Dorset, Vermont, found a 55-year-old man sitting in his vehicle in the yard of a residence, he told them that he thought he was in a parking lot.  But it was no parking lot, and the man was charged with DUI.

Instead of a parking lot, the man had driven his vehicle into the yard of an historic landmark, the 1852 family home of William Griffith Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


The ACLU, while legitimately looking out for the Constitutional interests of citizens, often gets its knickers in a twist over situations that are more theoretical than actual.  And so it is with the organization’s recent objections to the growing police use of license plate readers.

These electronic devices, already in use in a majority of jurisdictions, automatically scan the license plates of passing cars and flag them if they come up as stolen or associated with a crime.  But in the view of the ACLU, these readers are being used to “track the movements” of ordinary citizens.

While the potential certainly exists to use the data collected by these devices to track where a car goes, this potential has been present in our society for 110 years, ever since Massachusetts became the first state to issue license plates in 1903.  Anyone with a pair of eyes could track a car’s whereabouts.

In 1934, another Massachusetts first, the use of two-way radios by the Boston Police, further enhanced the ability of a car’s movements to be followed.

The ACLU expresses concern with the creation of a database in which motorists' travels are recorded and maintained, but the simple fact is, license plates have been required to be placed in public view for over a century.  For the entirely of that time a pen or pencil, or an ordinary camera, could be used to make a record.  That there now exists a method to read and verify license plates in a dramatically more efficient manner does not alter the fact that a car’s movements have been trackable for as long as anyone today has been alive.  Why the objection now?

It would be one thing if the police were putting into widespread use a device that could reach into your wallet and pull out your personal information as you walked by.  But we’re talking about license plates, which are out in the open on every car.

It has been demonstrated that the use of license plate readers has both lessened car theft and decreased the time needed to find a stolen car.  It has not been demonstrated that the devices are being used to “track the movements of innocent motorists,” as the ACLU contends.

As noted above, the ACLU legitimately protects the Constitutional interests of citizens.  But frequently it undermines its own effectiveness by railing against government intrusions that are more imaginary than real.

Using the photograph below, provided by our friends at Hemmings Motor News, we can track where the car bearing Massachusetts license plate 097A was in 1910...