HPD license plate scanners bring privacy concerns

File photo of HPD's new Automated License Plate Reader

Honolulu Police have a new weapon in their crime fighting arsenal – and it pairs a camera with a computer. Police say the Automated License Plate Technology will help them in their fight against crime, but there are people who are concerned about their right to privacy.

Police say only trained personnel will use the cameras – and that while privacy concerns will be addressed – they are also using the cameras to be more efficient and effective in their efforts towards public safety. “so we did take all their concerns into account when we came up with the policy,” said Assistant Police Chief Susan Dowsett. “We want to do what would help us but we also understand that we need to protect the privacy needs of the public.”

Here’s how the scanner will work. When police take a digital image of a license plate, they will match it up against information they have on file for specific cases related to stolen vehicles, stolen license plates, and vehicles that may belong to missing persons. People we spoke to tonight understand the reasons, they just don’t like the feeling of being followed by an officer with a camera.

“It might be an invasion of privacy,” said Gener Jose. “Some people might not take it well because cops may be following them around and I don’t think they will take it very well.”

In a way it’s good, and in a way, it’s not,” said Alfred Russell. “Why is it not”? asked KHON2News. He responded “Harassment, you might say. What if you get caught doing good, and they pull you over for unspecified reasons, you know?”

Honolulu police say the information gathered by their cameras under this new system will be purged from their files in 90 days unless the information can be used in a criminal or civil case, or the license plate information cane be used for a lawful action to produce records.

“Stolen vehicles are a problem in our community, “said Assistant Chief Dowsett. “I think anything that we can do to help recover vehicles for the victims, I’m sure is greatly appreciated. If it was my car that was stolen, I’d be happy to get it back.”

Police say the information they gather will not be shared by any other law enforcement agency unless given specific authorization by the Chief of Police.

Police have had some success thus far. They have recovered two stolen cars and seven stolen license plates.

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