Forget the NSA… when it comes to solving crimes LAPD often use license plate ID systems to track vehicles and catch criminals. You know that big weird ugly thing that you sometimes pass on the street that tells you your speed? It also captures your license plate number! LAPD, CHP, DOT and other agencies equip their vehicles with license plate readers that are CONSTANTLY reading plats and logging their location. In a recent high profile LAPD crime, when the suspect was identified… he no longer went to his home knowing he was “hot”. Instead, he stayed at a friends house. They knew his license plate number, and by referencing a database LAPD was able to locate the area where the car had been parked most recently. Detectives found the car, sat on it and arrested the suspect. These readers also lead police to chop shops, as stolen cars are often logged in and around the same location.
In a recent article by the LA Times– the ACLU is filing a suit saying the data of citizens not associated with a crime should be erased. The problem is, there is no expectation of privacy with a licensed vehicle or where it is driven on public streets. So sorry! It also references the arrest of several people in a homicide investigation years after the death linked to use of plate readers.
Putting ANY cover, even a clear plastic “plate protector” over a license plate is a crime in California. You cannot cover or obscure your plate in any way. Many times criminals steal your license plates and swap them for the ones on a vehicle they just stole… so be aware, check your plates often… and wave HELLO to that speed machine!