Big brains for the police

Big brains for the police

Summary: The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department is experimenting with a squad-car-mounted image processing system that detects and reads license plates, then matches them against a list of stolen cars' plate numbers. During one night of testing, four squad cars automatically looked up more than 12,000 plates, which resulted in seven recovered cars and three arrests.

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TOPICS: Legal
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The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department is experimenting with a squad-car-mounted image processing system that detects and reads license plates, then matches them against a list of stolen cars' plate numbers. During one night of testing, four squad cars automatically looked up more than 12,000 plates, which resulted in seven recovered cars and three arrests.

So what?

You've got to feel for criminals who suddenly find themselves up against cops with vastly improved processing power--in effect, a brain that can memorize and instantly retrieve thousands of license plate numbers. It's only a matter of time before these systems are mounted at intersections (integrated, perhaps, with photographic speed traps)--tailpipe sniffers that detect unacceptable emissions will arrive shortly after that. Something similar is in the works to help police officers recognize faces, and I have no doubt that pheromone-based systems that use amplifying prosthetic noses to detect guilt are being developed by cheerful researchers.

In short, the civil authorities seem poised to have unprecedented powers of investigation at their disposal--ironically without, technically, invading your privacy at all: license plates, tailpipes, and faces are all clearly in the public domain. The world is becoming a very different place...between this and rap "music," I'm tempted to join a soybean commune somewhere out in Montana. I'll see if they have room for you, too.

Topic: Legal

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5 comments
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  • Sounds good

    except if you ignore the results! This type of system has been used at US border crossings for years, and when stolen cars are driven into Mexico - they are let through! I was astonished to read about this! I don't remember the reason given, but maybe they are afraid of gunbattles/shooting of border agents. Seems the vehicles are stolen here, and become Mexican police cars . . .
    Roger Ramjet
    • The link

      http://www.policetalk.com/customs.html

      What the heck is going on here?
      Roger Ramjet
  • not what our forefathers wanted

    Ya it's a sad sad world we are moving toward. Everything you do monitored, every person tracked. All in the name of safety and security. It really is disgusting. Pretty soon there won't even be freedom in your own home. While your sitting home watching "real world" on mtv, the REAL world is crumbling around us. This is not what our forefathers wanted.
    Protector
  • brains for police

    Yes, indeed, it is a sad day. Like others have said, we are being tracked all the time. Our politicians are wiping their feet on the Constitition. What is really disturbing is that most don't seem to care. We may as well give Iraq
    our Constitution - we aren't using it. Yes, SD sounds good - very good.
    garyr_z
  • Common Technology

    I think that this kind of technology is fairly common outside the US too. I know for a fact that the small city where I work (Canterbury, England) has cameras on all the main routes into the city that can pick out the number plates of criminal's cars. I also know many forces have vans that they can park up to detect 'travelling criminals'. I believe that London has had these kind of cameras all over the city for years.

    I have to say I don't feel entirely comfortable with this kind of surveillance but there are benevolent uses of surveillance technology too. For example, a University developed a system that could pick out members of a crowd standing on a platform who were likely to commit suicide in front of a London Tube train (something that happens fairly often over the course of a year). Apparently it worked by tracking the heads of people who moved erratically and let several trains go by without boarding them. The system would then alert station staff to the possibility of a suicide attempt.
    _Patrick