City Desk

Crowdsourcing License Plate Reader Locations

Over the weekend, the Post ran a story about license plate readers in the region, and the attendant privacy concerns:

More than 250 cameras in the District and its suburbs scan license plates in real time, helping police pinpoint stolen cars and fleeing killers. But the program quietly has expanded beyond what anyone had imagined even a few years ago.

With virtually no public debate, police agencies have begun storing the information from the cameras, building databases that document the travels of millions of vehicles.

Nowhere is that more prevalent than in the District, which has more than one plate-reader per square mile, the highest concentration in the nation. Police in the Washington suburbs have dozens of them as well, and local agencies plan to add many more in coming months, creating a comprehensive dragnet that will include all the approaches into the District.

In D.C., there are 73 readers (at $20,000 a piece), 38 of which are stationary, while the rest are attached to vehicles. MPD Officer Tisha Ganett says the location of the cameras is confidential: "We do not disseminate operations and tactical information."

But! If you care to look, you can probably spot them; they seem to look very similar to red light cameras, and are likely mounted in the same kinds of locations. Has anyone seen a license plate reader in the wild? Let us know where it was and we'll start keeping track.

Photo by Jay Goodman Tamboli

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Comments

  1. #1

    There is one on Blair Road NW, somewhere between Madison Street and Underwood Street (saw it Saturday, forget exactly which block). Another on Missouri Avenue NW, somewhere between 3rd and 9th Streets (again, forget the exact block).

  2. #2

    I'm pretty sure there's one on Benning Rd NE, on the offramp from 295 (I've only seen it on the southbound 295-to-westbound Benning Rd. ramp).

  3. #3

    Big brother is here!

    You can always spray paint over the lenses if you want to do your part in civil disobedience.

  4. #4

    Officer Ganett is incorrect. The Metropolitan Police Department publishes the locations of all fixed and mobile speed cameras and red-light cameras on their website. Also, DC GIS has a database with camera locations. Unfortunately, the DC GIS website is horribly out of date and the MPD website lists the wrong speeds for some of the roads where cameras are located.

    iphone apps like Trapster are inaccurate.

    To address the problem , we created a website about the speed cameras and on it you will find a Google Map of all fixed camera locations. The Campaign for Safe Speed has started posting signs in front of speed camera northbound on Bladensburg Road. We'd love to have help placarding every single fixed camera in the city. Check out our website for information about how you can help with placarding the signs and denying the city this unfair and illegitimate source of revenue.

    https://sites.google.com/site/dcspeedcamera/

  5. #5

    Spray painting over the lenses of the cameras is illegal and can land you in jail for 8 months plus a $1,000 fine. A legal form of resistance is to get people to slow down in the immediate vicinity of the cameras by posting warning signage at each camera location. This will deny the city the revenue from the cameras and make the system uneconomical to maintain.

    We also need to lobby for speed limits that reflect a reasonable balance between safety and speed. 25 mph on a six lane divided highway like Bladensburg Road is ridiculous and DDOT data does not support such artificially low speeds on high volume, non-residential roads.

  6. #6

    Remember, this technology works

    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/crime-scene/license-plate-sensor-helps-nab.html

    "A major break in the high-profile slaying of American University professor Sue Ann Marcum came when a license plate recognition sensor in D.C. transmitted a message to police that the woman's Jeep, which had been reported stolen, was in the area, police said."

  7. #7

    The 6300 Blair Road location is accurate (btwn Sheridan and Tuckerman, on the left as you are going north). They just set this up a couple of weeks ago

  8. #8

    @Radarhater: I like your solutions MUCH better. Also, the speed limits on Bladensburg Road (and on Connecticut Avenue north of Chevy Chase Circle) are absolutely ridiculous.

  9. #9

    As someone who had a stolen vehicle recovered thanks to a mobile plate reader, and someone who's gotten a ticket from a plate reader, I don't like the idea of telling criminals which areas to avoid with hot cars. I know, I know, privacy vs security, but it was such a relief to get that car back less than 24 hours after we reported it missing that I just can't get behind revealing all of the plate readers' locations.

  10. #10

    @RadarHater these aren't speed cameras. these are plate readers. slowing down won't change a thing. these aren't a source of revenue; they are a source of information gathering.

  11. #11

    I've been curious about what those cameras were mounted on the back of police cars. There's pretty much always a cop car with one sitting on Connecticut Avenue going southbound just below Chevy Chase Circle.

    While I don't recall if it has a camera, there's almost always a police car stationed on Military Road westbound near 28th St NW. Given that they have a "police only" parking space there and it's a major corridor for crossing the park it'd be shocking if there wasn't a mobile ALPR there.

    @RadarHater You seem to be confusing speed cameras and ALPRs. They're not the same thing (though I wouldn't be surprised if some are co-located).

  12. #12

    Westbound Pennsylvania Ave SE @ L'Enfant Square. In the median between the Shell & BP stations

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