License Plate Scanning System Turns Police Into Debt Collectors

By Mike Elgan  |  Posted 2016-01-27 Print this article Print
Deadbeat Scanner

They could also get data from existing or future traffic camera systems. The robocops could pull over suspects, who would be presented with the option to pay their fine on the spot or have a warrant issued for their immediate arrest.

Both these scenarios would be extremely lucrative. They would enable police departments to collect more fines with fewer cops. This would save a huge amount of time and money expended on the current legal bureaucracy that involves ticketing and the court system.

But why should court and traffic fines and debt be given special treatment just because the technology that enables them to do so exists?

Why not employ these police robot ATMs to collect any debt. Debt collection companies could pay police departments to serve as their agents. The money would be used by the police to make us all safer by funding more police robot ATMs.

And why scan only license plates? It makes sense to scan, recognize and log the face of every passenger, pedestrian and bicyclist as well and run them through the databases to fish for outstanding arrest warrants or unpaid fines.

Of course, in the future, far more people will ride in self-driving cars owned by a service, rather than drive their own cars. So it's only fair for police to install cameras in those cars to scan the face of every passenger with a handy credit card reader to process payment on the spot. The Ubers and Lyfts of the future could collect 25 percent of the fees or fines or taxes levied against passengers and that could subsidize their business.

On second thought, that's not fair, either. Why should riders be face-scanned while drivers are not? Why not pass a law that puts a camera and a credit card reader into every car dashboard?

And why rely on the sensors from robot car ATMs and traffic cameras? The most efficient way is to require devices that record everything every driver does, the speed, the turns, the braking and how all this complies with traffic and parking laws.

When the car stops and the engine is turned off the doors would automatically lock until the driver pays the fee or fine. If they refused, the automatic driving feature of the car could bring the driver to the nearest police station for arrest.

Once that equipment is installed, of course the insurance companies will want to base their rates entirely on driving data.

All this could be sold to the public under the guise of safety, fairness and the rule of law. After all, if you can't pay the fine, don't cross the line.

If you like this future, you'll definitely want to support what's happening in Kyle, Texas.

If you don't like this future, you'll want to actively oppose it.

There's no reason to believe that funneling court data to a private company, using police cars to send location information on all cars to a private company, and using the police as debt collectors is as far as this goes. This is a slope—a steep and slippery one.

If new technology makes a change efficient and saves money, it can be convincingly argued that these savings enable police resources to be used for protecting and serving the public. If that's the argument we accept, then all this and much worse will happen. We'll take one step in this direction, grow used to it and then blithely take the next step down the slope.

What we really need are new laws that ban police departments from collecting money for any reason on principle. 

We also need laws that ban police departments from harvesting license plate and facial data for private companies.

Because if we don't, a new kind of computer-automated police state is just down the road.


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