OGDEN — After being questioned about their use of new license plate recognition technology, the Ogden Police Department put the equipment on display.
The OPD gave a demonstration to local media Wednesday on how and why they use Automated License Plate Recognition, a new technology that provides continuous and high-speed monitoring of traffic areas.
Ogden has one ALPR-fitted vehicle, which costs about $50,000 and features four cameras mounted on top of the police car, with a special computer inside. The department has had the vehicle for about one year.
OPD crime analyst Dave Weloth said the technology can be used in data-mining efforts related to crime scene investigation, criminal travel patterns, hot spots and for other intelligence purposes.
Weloth said that, among other things, the system can immediately alert officers of wanted individuals, assist in stolen vehicle recovery and assist in Amber alerts.
Master Officer Tim Shelstead said he has found three stolen vehicles in the past year as a result of having the technology.
“My job would be greatly hindered without it,” Shelstead said.
But the Utah Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said it is concerned with how information associated with the technology is used, stored and protected.
In late May, the OPD was one of three Utah law enforcement agencies targeted by the Utah ACLU with records requests seeking information about the technology.
The ACLU also sent requests to the Utah Highway Patrol and the Iron County Sheriff’s Office.
A copy of the records request to the OPD shows that the ACLU is seeking information on exactly what type of data is obtained with the technology, who within the OPD can access that data, what procedures those outside of the department must go through to obtain the data and how long data is stored.
Ogden Police Chief Mike Ashment said he understands the ACLU’s concern about the possible misuse of citizen information, but proper safeguards are in place to make sure that doesn’t happen.
“We implement the same policies we do with everything else,” he said. “This is no different than any other tool we use that involves information on people or their vehicle.”
Ashment said the technology fits in with the department’s overall approach of using technology to be more effective and efficient in solving crimes.
“We are tasked with ensuring the safety of the community,” he said. “This is another tool to help us do our jobs better and more efficiently.”