DUI Surveillance Camera Companies Look to Expand
By: Chris Kramer
Early next year in the UK, a nationwide police surveillance network will be launched. Some private companies in the United States are hopeful that red light cameras and speed cameras that they manufacture will be used to set up a similar network here.
Currently, Redflex and American Traffic Solutions (ATS) are quietly pitching new motorist tracking options to state and government officials, who they hope will buy into the idea of increased police surveillance in the United States. The Newspaper reported that these two companies are the top photo traffic enforcement providers.
On August 7, representatives from Redflex reportedly met with officials in Homestead, Florida to explain the company's latest technology developments.
Redflex regional director Cherif Elsadek has said that the company is moving into the homeland security market on a national and local level. The next new development, according to Elsadek, is optical character recognition. This technology will be available in a matter of months.
The optical character recognition would be integrated with the company's existing red light camera and speed camera systems in order to allow police to capture full video records of drivers and their passengers. This technology is extremely advanced and is only limited by available hard drive space and the types of cameras that are installed.
In order to avoid public resistance to such an invasive form of surveillance, this technology is being marketed as a tool to help police locate missing children and stolen cars. However, the effects of this type of video surveillance could be far reaching.
Generally when a person is pulled over for suspicion of DUI, the dash cam in the police vehicle records the stop and can be used against a DUI suspect in court. With the proposed new surveillance setup by Redflex, a driver would not even have to be suspected of any infraction in order to be captured on film. If they are later accused of DUI, this video surveillance could potentially be used as evidence against them.
DUI Monitoring Sounds a Bit Like Big Brother
Just like Redflex, ATS is hard at work pitching new technology to monitor and track motorists.
ATS recently submitted a proposal to operate 200 speed cameras for the Arizona state police. The company plans to integrate its ticketing cameras into a national vehicle tracking database. This integration would allow police officers to enter a license plate number into a laptop computer and receive an e-mail notification as soon as a speed camera anywhere in the state recognizes the plate.
Unfortunately, this technology does not violate current law regarding search and seizure. Although people who are not suspected of DUI or other crimes will be caught on camera, the cameras are in a public place and do not require any physical contact with potential suspects to operate. Therefore, it is completely legal for cops to monitor the movements of anyone they choose at any time, whether it be people they suspect of DUI, their wives, neighbors or even you.
Police databases are routinely used to intimidate innocent drivers. Any cop with a personal grudge can obtain personal information contained in these databases and use the information to target and harass people who have not broken the law. While unethical, this type of juvenile behavior is not illegal and officers caught using these tactics are generally dealt with - or cleared - during internal investigations.
The surveillance program that will be launched in January in the UK will dramatically expand the use of speed cameras. The cameras will be used to track vehicles over distances as far as six miles and these records of vehicle movements will be stored for five years on a central government Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) server. This will give the police the opportunity to keep track of criminals and innocent people alike.
If this type of program comes to the United States, police will have plenty of evidence to work with in DUI cases and other criminal investigations. Along with that, they will have a rather intimate look at other drivers who are minding their own business and obeying the laws.