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Crime Government

Boston Police Stop Scanning Registration Plates, For Now 110

Posted by timothy
from the expurgated-version dept.
Ars Technica reports that after journalists gained access to a database readout showing a sample of the data gathered by the 14 registration plate scanners that had been in use by the Boston police and analyzed some of that data with embarrassing results, the police force has announced it will suspend use of the scanners indefinitely. Among other things, the data dump (which was not quite as thoroughly scrubbed as the police department had intended it to be) showed that a stolen motorcycle was detected by the cameras 59 times and red-flagged, but evidently no action was taken to recover it.
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Boston Police Stop Scanning Registration Plates, For Now

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  • Pishh! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    A stolen motorcycle? Ain't nobody got time for that. Citizen, we have more important issues than a stolen motorcycle. Now, stop hitting my club with your head!

    • They sure do. Like preventing the Mooninites from bombing the subway.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Or closing down the entire city, costing untold billions of dollars is lost productivity, to fail to catch an unarmed, injured teenager. One that they had literally been flat-out told was planning a terrorist attack prior to said attack, but was entirely ignored until after they caught him and realized they'd been told to watch out for him. That's Boston Strong.

      • You'd be pretty fucking sorry if the authorities hadn't put a stop to the Mooninite invasion, pal.

        Fucking alien-loving pinko

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Exactly. Recovering stolen property is the least of the concerns for police officers. They are working people and doing a job. That job is to bring in revenue. This motorcycle was not caught speeding so no ticket could be written up to fill out some paychecks. Therefor, it is irrelevant.

      To increase profits, the city of Botston will be converting these LPRs into red light cameras. It's a win-win situation. The city gets more money from writing tickets, and you get to be proud knowing that you're helping the

  • I could have told you that based on how they handle, or don't, the guys who go racing up and down the highway at 100+MPH and who obstruct highway traffic to do their tricks.

    It's pathetic, not to mention a menace.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I do not ride a motorcycle, but I've had friends that do, and as they explained to me once, you can pretty easily avoid the police on one in a lot of situations.

    • by Phyrexia (55710) on Saturday December 14, 2013 @05:39PM (#45691467) Homepage

      From TFA:

      One Harley Davidson motorcycle that had been reported stolen passed license plate scanners a total of 59 times between Oct. 19, 2012, and March 13, 2013. It was often recorded on sequential days or multiple times in a single day, all by the same scanner and almost always within the same half-hour span in the early evening.

      The issue here is not cyclists driving like assholes.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        ...is money. People, including the police, do what they are incited to do.

        The police have very little incentive to go out of their way to recover a stolen bike. They get paid regardless. They DO have some incentive to ensure the safety of large businesses in their area, as a lot of their money depends on the economic conditions created by said businesses. Also, they have some incentive to enforce laws which ensure the continued wealth of already-wealthy people, largely under the same principle but also

    • If you think a Harley (from TFA) can sustain 100 MPH.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The title of the ARS blog article does not say they will stop scanning plates. It says: Boston Police indefinitely suspends license plate reader program.

    Suspending the LPR program doesn't mean all that much. Which program exactly? Are there any other programs that use LPR data? Will the cameras be turned off? Will the cameras be removed? Or, will the stolen vehicle reports be discontinued while the tracking database continues to be silently populated/

    After all, the Boston Marathon bombing was only like yest

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 14, 2013 @07:41PM (#45692071)

      Are there any other programs that use LPR data?

      CUPS?

      Thank you! I'll be here all week. Try the veal.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Saturday December 14, 2013 @06:13PM (#45691629) Journal
    The problem is not the scanners are producing wrong reports or misreading the plates. Looks like no one is bothering to follow up on the alerts triggered by these scanners. Apparently the police were more interested in trying to detect movement of people, though the systems was allegedly installed to report stolen vehicles. Even the ars technica report is more than a year old. May be the police are just slow, to react to anything, from the scanner report to ars technica.

    Anyway the license plate scanners are not going to work. There was this news report about some precocious teens, taking a picture of the license plate of a teacher they did not like, printing it, pasting it over their own number plates and went through several red-light cameras and triggered a number of tickets for that poor teacher. So it ain't gonna work. Criminals are two steps ahead of the cops, they will easy mark some sap and pass the blame on them, use these cameras to create iron-clad alibi etc. Glad it is gone.

    • by mariox19 (632969) on Saturday December 14, 2013 @07:14PM (#45691945)

      Apparently the police were more interested in trying to detect movement of people []

      That would be my concern too, but for the fact that I suspect something else entirely.

      I'm going to guess that someone in industry, eager to sell a product, got together with someone at the police department, eager to carve out a brand new, bureaucratic niche for himself; and putting these two together is why the scanners got bought—not for any legitimate police work. The cops in their cars don't really care about the scanners, and neither do their superiors; because catching stolen cars doesn't do as much for revenue generation as does writing tickets for expired registrations, pulling over drunk drivers, or setting up good old-fashioned speed traps.

      • by djmurdoch (306849)

        Catching stolen cars is likely a revenue loss for the police department (because it will mean they need to spend time putting together a case for prosecution), and occasionally dangerous for the arresting officer. It doesn't make any sense for them to do their job.

    • Anyway the license plate scanners are not going to work. There was this news report about some precocious teens, taking a picture of the license plate of a teacher they did not like, printing it, pasting it over their own number plates and went through several red-light cameras and triggered a number of tickets for that poor teacher. So it ain't gonna work. Criminals are two steps ahead of the cops, they will easy mark some sap and pass the blame on them, use these cameras to create iron-clad alibi etc.

      So apparantly it _didn't_ work, right? If there is a report about it in the papers?

      Consider this: Going through a red light is an offense. Framing another person for something like that is a _very serious_ offense. To see how serious: A British Cabinet minister (Chris Huhne) first had to resign, then was convicted for "perverting the course of justice" because he convinced his wife for taking responsibility for a speeding ticket when he was caught driving too fast. That's with a person willingly taking t

    • by mdielmann (514750)

      May be the police are just slow, to react to anything, from the scanner report to ars technica.

      Ah yes, slow to react is just what I'm looking for in an emergency response organization.

  • by sgt scrub (869860) <saintium.yahoo@com> on Saturday December 14, 2013 @06:15PM (#45691643)

    If the records were publicly available, people would see that the majority of stolen items/vehicles are not found unless they are in a vehicle stopped for a traffic violation or an actual stolen vehicle has been stopped. Last year there was a group of people that was stealing stuff out of peoples cards in a near by neighborhood. They pilfered stuff from cars for a month until they got pulled over because their inspection sticker expired. Successful criminals keep their cars clean, insured, up to date, and drive slow.

    • Re:I'm not shocked (Score:4, Informative)

      by blackraven14250 (902843) on Saturday December 14, 2013 @07:12PM (#45691935)
      Except when it comes to the details of the motorcycle case in particular, it's baffling that it wasn't recovered. It passed by the same camera something like 40 times, on sequential days, in the same half hour period. Shit, you can just station a cop there and let them write speeding tickets for 2-3 days, and they'd be bound to run into it.
      • by sgt scrub (869860)

        Between the hours of what and what? I mean come on man. Discounts at Dunkin donuts have time limits!

    • That's how State Trooper Charles J. Hanger caught the worst domestic terrorist in US history. Cruisin' down I-35 with no plates.

      Dumb. But not dumb enough to blow himself up instead of 168 citizens.

  • Why release any data not associated with a wanted vehicle? On the other hand, it seems like it could do a great job finding wanted vehicles... Stolen cars, Amber Alerts, bail jumpers, and wanted felons.. Only when you use it for misdemeanor offenses does it seem to suggest a civil liberties problem. (Say you get pulled over.. turns out your tags was incorrectly reported stolen.. the issue is cleared up and your tags are cleared from the watch list.. probable cause and no real harm done... ) A little law and
  • by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Saturday December 14, 2013 @06:20PM (#45691669)
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I seem to remember something about this same department rejecting GPS tracking for officers. Maybe they realized the system was watching them too.

  • what the problem with police ?
  • Ah Boston PD, you show yet again how absolutely crazy you are. The saddest thing of all, suspect that lack of action in regards to stolen vehicles & and the insanely high (99.99%) false positive rate are not the reasons for their "suspending" of the program. All of those hits in the police employee parking lot that they'd rather not address is probably by the far the largest driving factor.

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