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    Rana Goodman

    By Marty Winger:

    The introduction of ANPR systems has led to fears of misidentification and the furthering of 1984-style surveillance. In the United States, some such as Gregg Easterbrook oppose what they call ”machines that issue speeding tickets and red-light tickets” as the beginning of a slippery slope towards an automated justice system:

    ”A machine classifies a person as an offender, and you can’t confront your accuser because there is no accuser… can it be wise to establish a principle that when a machine says you did something illegal, you are presumed guilty?”

    Similar criticisms have been raised in other countries. Easterbrook also argues that this technology is employed to maximize revenue for the state, rather than to promote safety. The electronic surveillance system produces tickets which in the US are often in excess of $100 and are virtually impossible for a citizen to contest in court without the help of an attorney.  The revenues generated by these machines are shared generously with the private corporation that builds and operates them, creating a strong incentive to tweak the system to generate as many tickets as possible.

    Older systems had been notably unreliable; in the UK this has been known to lead to charges being made incorrectly with the vehicle owner having to pay $$ to be issued with proof (or not) of the offense. Improvements in technology have drastically decreased error rates, but false accusations   are still frequent enough to be a problem.

    Perhaps the best-known incident involving the abuse of an ANPR database in North America is the case of Edmonton Sun reporter Kerry Diotte in 2004 A security director wrote an article critical of Edmonton police use of traffic cameras for revenue enhancement, and in retaliation was added to an ANPR database of” high-risk drivers” in an attempt to monitor his habits and create an opportunity to arrest him.  The police chief and several officers were fired as a result, and The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada expressed public concern over the” growing police use of technology to spy on motorists.”

    Other concerns include the storage of information that could be used to identify people and store details about their driving habits and daily life the Data Protection Act along with similar legislation (see personally identifiable information).  The laws in the UK are strict for any system that uses CCTV footage and can identify individuals.  Also of concern is the safety of the data once it is mined, following the discovery of police surveillance records lost in a gutter.

    There is also a case in the UK for saying that use of ANPR cameras is unlawful under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. The breach exists some say, in the fact that   ANPR is used to monitor the activities of law-abiding citizens and treats everyone like the suspected criminals intended   to be surveyed under the Act.

    The police themselves have been known to refer to the system of ANPR as a ”24/7 traffic movement database” which is a diversion from its intended purpose of identifying vehicles involved in criminal activities. The opposing viewpoint is that where the plates have been cloned, a ’read’ of an innocent motorist’s vehicle will allow the elimination of that vehicle from an investigation by visual examination of the images stored. Likewise, stolen vehicles are read by ANPR systems between the time of theft and reporting to the Police, assisting   in the investigation.

    The Associated Press reported in August 2011 that New York Police Department cars and license plate tracking equipment purchased with federal HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) funds were used to spy on Muslims at mosques, and to track the license plate numbers of worshipers. Police in unmarked cars outfitted with electronic license plate readers would drive down the street and automatically catalog the plates of everyone parked near the mosque, amassing a covert database that would be distributed among officers and used to profile Muslims in public.

    In 2013 the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released 26,000 pages of data about ANPR systems obtained from local, state, and federal agencies through freedom of information laws.

    ”The documents paint a startling picture of a technology deployed with too few rules that is becoming a tool for mass routine location tracking  and surveillance” wrote the ACLU. The ACLU reported that in many locations the devices were being used to store location information on vehicles which were not suspected of any offense.

    ” Private companies are also using license plate readers and sharing information they collect with police with little or no oversight or privacy protections. A lack of regulation means that policies governing how long our location data is kept vary widely,” the ACLU said. In 2012 the ACLU filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security, which funds many local and state ANPR programs through grants. After the agency failed to provide access to records the ACLU had requested under the Freedom of Information Act about the programs.  In mid-August 2015, in Boston, it was discovered that the license plate records for a million people was online and unprotected.

    In April 2020, The Register UK with the help of security researchers discovered nine million ANPR logs left wide-open on the internet. The 3M Sheffield Council system had been online and unprotected since 2013-2014.

    In the United States, inaccurate results have led to unnecessary stops of innocent people. The most notable case involved a Black family in Aurora, Color-ado with four children aged between 6 and 17 being held at gunpoint, and the children placed in handcuffs.

    Please note too: I have other articles that offer both technical, long term costs along with necessary items to make the ALPR a complete  integrated system notwithstanding the absolute minimal system any government agency would offer.


    License Plate Recognition (LPR) systems have met with some changing technology in various security and access controls in appeal, request, and control of major facilities such as commercial, industrial, and even residential facilities. These systems manage daily operations for parking, detection, and security.  LPR is also used for toll collecting, law enforcement and to offer video recorded history for an event.

    Those seeking this type of security would benefit from having a deep understanding from security professionals when designing an LPR system as both initial and reoccurring costs can be considerable. Integrating a video management system (VMS) with LPR must handle the reoccurring and sometimes frequent management of the system.

    This article explores the essential components of LPR (License Plate Reader) systems and gives out understanding from industry experts who have shown themselves to build a professional LPR/VMS system for a specific application.


    “The most important factor to think about is the importance for an LPR system is the camera.” Specialized license plate capture cameras are designed with short comings that increase performance and maximize license plate capture and decrease the need for installation errors due to the original setup. The specific LPR cameras have been thoroughly tested in real-life outdoor traffic schemes, therefore guaranteeing the best performance.

    License plate acquisition requires different cameras due to the daily changes of the environment than most other implementations like a traditional camera system. Now, using a dedicated license plate capture camera can save substantial time and effort. But these cameras, everything from noise filtering   due to the surrounding environment and have gain handling to auto focus and day-night switching has been re-evaluated and tested with actual outdoor traffic installations.”


    Proper lighting is mandatory for good license plate recognition, especially at night or in low-light conditions. When using LPR cameras we need to be aware of delivering constant and solid lighting that is invisible to the human eye, and infrared (IR) illumination will greatly improve the performance of LPR cameras. To attain the highest possible image possible alighting circumstances.

    The installation company must be aware of the use of these add-ons for LPR cameras, and have built-in IR illuminators for a successful installation. Or install standalone IR illuminators to brighten the low light conditions.  Testing is critical for proof that the LPR system will provide the visual and VMS information expected.


    LPR cameras’ resolution and frame rate are decisive and significant variables in taking clear photos with LPR cameras for the license plate. More details  can be captured by higher-resolution cameras, thereby increasing the possibility of good license plate recognition. But higher resolution, on the other hand, necessitates more processing ability, power, and storage space for the resolution to seek.  Frame rate becomes important because it influences how many photos the scans for each second. A greater frame rate guarantees that fast-moving cars can be recognized correctly, and of course that is the goal of capturing the license plate.


    A worthwhile LPR system requires full and harmonious integration between the components with VMS. Awareness of tried-and-true devices that have proven track records minimize issues and make long term compatibility relieve stress when problems occur. Once again, the importance of knowing how prior installations have proven the choices of vendor devices. Using ONVIF approved devices will ensure the value of choices in a LPR/VMS system.

    Furthermore, an open API is accessible for interaction with other third-party systems. The API acts as a middleman between any two machines that want to connect with each other for a specified task. Because of this adaptability, LPR systems can be adapted to individual security requirements and connected with an existing infrastructure.


    Because LPR systems require and constantly move data to create a large volume of data, network, and system needs must be examined. The installation of LPR/VMS systems must guarantee that the network infrastructure can handle the increased data traffic, and as well, that the system has the ample means to do so, and still has copious processing power and storage capacity. It is also critical to consider system scalability, as the number of cameras and LPR data may increase over time. Consideration must be given to scalability because of the potential of adding cameras, so the VMS will easily handle the addition.


    Since the LPR systems collect sensitive video, the system must be managed in compliance with data privacy laws. Installing companies should be aware of local and regional data protection legislation and guarantee that LPR systems abide by them. This includes putting in place appropriate data storage, access controls, and data in a secure location, and minimize the people who have the authority and knowledge to retrieve data when necessary.


    To avoid these issues, clear guidelines on camera mounting (camera height, distance, angle, and direction etc.) need be followed. For optimal license plate detection and referring to manuals can avoid many performance issues related to an installation especially being aware of special conditions, whereby the environment can be harsh.  Camera placement should also consider potential obstructions, such as trees or other vehicles that may interfere with the camera’s line of sight. Installing companies, along with the consumer should collaborate and conduct several site surveys to identify the best locations for camera installation.

    Sustained surveillance and refinement.

    It is crucial to frequently improve the LPR system due to the technology and maintain its daily operation. Maintaining the systems carries the complement of updating software of the VMS and when needed, for the cameras too.  With new license plate software introduced by the associated vendor this will ensure an even flow of effective security.

    Rates of validity

    The validity rate, which refers to the percentage of correctly detected license plates, is a crucial measure for LPR systems. This varies based on (primarily) camera quality, and associated lighting conditions that can operate under sometimes harsh environments during the year, and camera positioning. This of course entails many details such as labor to install poles for cameras and that may include cell equipment to transmit to a defined location. You must also include potential on-going fees for those services offered by others. The chosen installation company must endeavor to reach high accuracy rates to warrantee that LPR systems produce dependable results and meet end-user expectations.


    System RELIABILITY and operability time are also very important indicators. To guarantee ongoing operation in the event of parts failures or network interruption, LPR systems should be designed with backup features and switchover capabilities.

    Consideration must be given to design that has built-in features to implement cloud-based solutions and/or remote monitoring tools to track system in the event of potential failure. This should be demonstrated to the user when an installation is completed.


    The user experience of any LPR system is no doubt extremely important. Installing companies must be aware that people need both a complete understanding of the LPR system, and the installing dealer needs to create training for both old and new personnel on a continuing basis.

    This should verify that the user of the system understands the complexity and the primary or key person be somewhat intuitive for its use giving end users quick access to key information and tools. To help users maximize the benefits of the LPR system, training materials, and continuing support should be offered.


    Being aware and having some understanding of the devices that make up a great LPR system and understanding the parts that contribute to the system, along with the integrated parts allow a ALPR/VMS, and its components that make up a complete system will address common issues and performance metrics that are all critical as a professional installation company can do.

    The installing company can corroborate the successful ratification of the LPR system by considering the components meet the industry standard as prescribed for the specific installation, and camera quality, optimization for lighting conditions, camera resolution, and frame rate,  will easily allow  seamless interaction with VMS,  network and system requirements, along with the data privacy and compliance  end users expect.


    Over the years the technology of LPRs has evolved.

    However, thugs know this and utilize ways to obscure or mask their plates. If I was going to enter SCA to commit crime I’d know or spot the LPRs and make adjustments so as not to have the reader ID my plate. You can buy fake plates, covers, temporarily obscure, etc. and then replace quickly.

    I would not want an elevated sense of security to be generated by installation of static LPRs. Like surveillance cameras, they are more of a post incident investigative tool than a preventive tool.

    Speaking as a retired big city copper.





    I completely agree with you (as the writer of the ALPR article).  Furthermore, as a 50 year and 2nd generation electronic security person I really understand your position and hope for everyone in the community that this can be a wonderful tool at great cost if used in a fairly controlled environment, but this isn’t the ideal installation because it is so random.  Some can make some good points for the need, but we both know the end result will not be as successful as “they” might want it to be.

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