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Extra Eyes on You on the Road

(Source: Jason Weinstein)

Even if you don't have anyone in the passenger seat when travelling many area roads, you're not alone. And we're not just talking about other drivers and pedestrians. Binghamton Police have four license plate readers which track time and location of every plate they see.

"If that license plate is in the database whether it's suspended or stolen it will come up as an alert on the computer screen and will allow the patrol officer to initiate a traffic stop and investigate further," said Binghamton Police Traffic Division Patrolman William Lescault.

"The license plate reader is like having a second officer in the seat that recognizes the vehicles that are stolen," said Broome County Sheriff's Deputy Robert Stapleton.

Often, the license plate readers will alert police to cars that may have lapsed registration or no insurance. But in 2011 Broome County Sheriff's used the readers to find a homicide suspect from Plattsburgh who was in the area.

"Say an Amber Alert comes up and we have the plate number of a car the child could possibly be in. We can enter that plate number manually into the computer, we can go up on the street, up on the highway, sit and wait and scan the vehicles as they go by and possibly get a hit on that particular vehicle," said Lescault.

The American Civil Liberties Union says these readers have the potential to create permanent records of virtually everywhere any of us has driven. The group is calling for legislation that would only allow law enforcement agencies to use this technology, and force those agencies to report its usage publicly on an annual basis.

The group is also calling for quick removal of information on cars who don't raise a red flag from any database an agency keeps. Binghamton Police keep information from these readers for 30 days. The Broome County Sheriff's office does so for 90 days.

"If there's a crime that occurred 30 days ago or three months ago we will be able to research our system to see if that plate was run by either of our patrol cars," said Stapleton.

****In Broome County, Jason Weinstein, FOX 40 HD News****

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