AST Digital Magazine July/August 2016 - Page 11

Volume 6 to finding the perpetrators or cementing evidence against them. Roanoke, Virginia, August 2015: One recent and highly-publicized case in which ALPR played a key role was that of the “Virginia On-Air Shooter,” a man by the name of Vester Lee Flanagan. Flanagan, you may recall, was a local TV news reporter who shot and killed two of his colleagues as they were conducting an interview. The station’s camera as well as Flanagan’s own camera phone captured the crime as it happened. Flanagan then fled the scene in his vehicle. It was only a few hours later that Flanagan’s car was spotted by a Virginia State Trooper’s mobile ALPR system. The trooper radioed for backup and pursued him. When she and her fellow troopers finally stopped Flanagan, they found him suffering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound that would kill him a mere two hours later. Georgetown, South Carolina, May 2011: Police were able to apprehend murder suspect William Constance, who allegedly stabbed his wife 25 times as the result of an argument. When the victim, Margaret Constance, was found dead at her home, police also discovered that her vehicle was missing and promptly entered the license plate number into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). It wasn’t long before a mobile ALPR unit captured the license plate. It instantly compared the number to NCIC and returned a hit. Police stopped the vehicle and, finding Mr. Constance at the wheel, took him into custody. Glasgow, Scotland, June 2007: ALPR was originally invented in the United Kingdom, and has been used there for many years as an effective traffic management, anti-crime, and counter-terrorism tool. One notable UK case involving the technology is the Glasgow International Airport attack on June 30, 2007. In this incident, a vehicle filled with propane canisters was driven into the front of the airport’s terminal, whose entrance is a set of glass doors, and set on fire. The vehicle was stopped from entering the terminal itself by security bollards outside the doors. July-Aug 2016 Edition A total of eight people were arrested as part of the conspiracy to carry out this attack, two of which were identified by ALPR (called Automatic Number Plate Recognition, or ANPR, in Britain) cameras on England’s M6 Motorway. The Glasgow International attack is interesting not only for how ALPR helped in apprehending the terrorists, but also for what it could have done had new-school technology been available at the time. Had the most advanced of today’s ALPR technology been deployed as part of the surveillance system at Glasgow International, perimeter-mounted cameras might have captured the vehicle and sent an alert before it got anywhere near the front entrance. Furthermore, it is likely that this vehicle had been driven through the location multiple times in previous days or weeks; attacks like this require a great deal of planning. ALPR-based video analytics could have detected this pattern and alerted security personnel to be on the lookout for the vehicle. In either of these scenarios, the attack, which resulted in multiple injuries, could have been prevented altogether. Maintaining Privacy Much has been made in the popular press about the supposed risks to personal privacy posed by ALPR. Claims of such risks center primarily on the ability of ALPR technology to store vast databases of license plate captures, which, the argument goes, grants the authorities the ability to track the locations of every motorist on the road going back days, weeks, months, or even years. The ACLU and others contend that such an ability makes innocent motorists vulnerable to blackmail or oppression based on their personal habits, what churches they attend, or what political rallies they participate in. However, such groups, whose agendas always seem to skew disproportionately against law enforcement, never seem to consider the logic of their position on this issue. Even if one ignores the fact that license plates have been repeatedly ruled by U.S. courts to be public information and therefore not subject to Fourth Amendment protections, there 1