You Are Being Tracked: End the use of ALPRs and Stop Dragnet Police Surveillance
Automated license plate readers (ALPRs) made by companies like Flock Safety and Motorola Solutions are spreading across the country. These dragnet surveillance systems allow police (and business owners, and HOAs…) to track and trace the movement of anyone who drives a car.
Surveilling everyone’s driving patterns doesn’t make us safer. Instead, it makes us less safe by infringing on our right to move freely, while fueling the numbers-based policing that preys upon Black, brown and poor people. On top of that, these cameras make a ton of mistakes—mistakes that lead to frightening police encounters and wrongful arrests.
Fight back against automated license plate readers! Sign the petition to tell your lawmakers: Don’t surveil our streets! Reject ALPRs and invest in community instead.
Why should we end the use of ALPRs?
ALPRs are marketed as objective and data-driven tools, but this isn’t the case at all. Instead, they supercharge the policing biases that criminalize Black, brown, and poor people. without any conclusive evidence that they reduce crime.
It’s not just police departments. ICE uses ALPRs to identify, arrest, and deport people, and in this post-Roe US, people seeking abortions will be tracked with ALPRs too. At the same time, vigilante incidents are on the rise, and suspicious neighbors could use ALPRs to target people they consider “outsiders.” Neighborhood surveillance makes us less safe because it teaches people to rely on stereotyping and fear.
- ALPRs are illegal dragnet surveillance. ALPRs are always-on surveillance systems that collect and store information on everyone who drives. Far fewer than 1% of scanned cars are connected to any sort of wrongdoing, but ALPRs still store everyone’s detailed travel history—sometimes indefinitely. This infringes on our Fourth Amendment privacy rights and breaks other laws that are supposed to protect us from police overreach.
- ALPRs don’t reduce crime. In spite of a well-orchestrated corporate media campaign by ALPR vendors, there is actually no conclusive evidence that ALPRs reduce crime. Instead of buying into unproven surveillance, we should invest in things like public health, high quality education, and violence intervention programs.
- ALPRs are sold by private companies that profit off fear. The companies that make ALPRs profit from the perceived threat of crime and have no business interest in ending it. Because fear sells more devices, ALPR companies and their investors have no incentive to create products that actually address the root causes of crime, conflict, and violence.
- Police and agencies aren’t held accountable for ALPR use. Policies that govern the use of license plate readers are far from the norm. Even where they do exist, they are regularly ignored. Recently, an officer in Kansas was arrested for using Flock Safety to stalk an ex-wife. Other departments have shared driver data with agencies like the FBI, even when they said they wouldn’t. On top of that, police and surveillance contractors don’t keep our data safe. Hacks and data breaches have already exposed hundreds of thousands of driver records.
- ALPRs are machines that make dangerous mechanical mistakes. ALPRs misread license plates at disturbingly high rates. A police-run study in Vallejo, California found that up to 37% of ALPR hits were erroneous. Errors like these have led to the police pulling over and detaining innocent people on many separate occasions.
- ALPRs harm our communities. Surveillance tools are overused on communities of color, leading to more arrests for low-level offenses and supercharging racist incarceration. Furthermore, Black, brown, and poor people are overrepresented on police “hot lists.” That means ALPRs will flag people who are already targeted by the police, even if the list is incorrect or out-of-date—like many hot lists are.
Want to challenge an ALPR contract in your city?
Join a growing national network of people organizing to cancel ALPR surveillance contracts. Submit this form and we’ll be in touch.
- U of M Ford School of Public Policy | Automated License Plate Readers: Legal and Policy Evaluation
- Truthout | Surveillance Technologies Don’t Create Safety. They Intensify State Violence.
- We the People Michigan | Factsheet: Key Issues with ALPRs
- Motherboard | Inside ‘TALON,’ the Nationwide Network of AI-Enabled Surveillance Cameras
- Surveillance Technology Oversight Project | Automated License Plate Readers & Law Enforcement
- ACLU IL | ICE Targeting Immigrants Based on ALPR Data Supplied by IL Police Departments