Lifestyles

RCMP use Automated Licence Plate Recognition frequently

Automated Licence Plate Recognition (ALPR) is a tool that is being used more frequently for traffic law enforcement in B.C. Cameras mounted on police vehicles scan vehicle licence plates as they pass and compare them to a computer database. A "hit" in the database is announced to the patrolling officer and the vehicle will be stopped for investigation.

ALPR is an effective tool for the detection of prohibited and unlicensed drivers. These offenders were usually discovered incidentally during the investigation of an unrelated driving offence in past. Today thousands of vehicles per hour can be checked and these drivers positively singled out. During 2013 1,944 drivers were charged for driving without a driver's licence, 313 for driving while prohibited and 416 had notices of driving prohibition served to them at roadside.

The detection of stolen vehicles, licence plates and licence validation decals, people with warrants and Amber Alerts are other uses that ALPR may be put to. The 2013 statistics appear to indicate that "hits" in these categories are not nearly as frequent as unlicensed and prohibited drivers. 34 outstanding warrants discovered was the highest total from this group.

Since ALPR can be used to store information about when and where a vehicle was encountered, many people have privacy concerns about its use. In British Columbia this information is only stored for "hits" that have resulted in enforcement action. The balance of the data is deleted. The Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner is the provincial agency responsible for the oversight of ALPR data collection.

For more information about this topic, visit www.drivesmartbc.ca. Questions or comments are welcome by e-mail to comments@drivesmartbc.ca. Tim Schewe is a retired RCMP constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. His column appears Thursdays.

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