Colorado Springs Gazette
September 6, 2012

[…] Over the past two years, roof-mounted license-plate readers — a kind of high-tech surveillance camera — have quietly led authorities in the Pikes Peak Region to scores of stolen vehicles. They also have helped capture fugitives and kept tabs on paroled sex offenders — all by automatically scanning roads and parking lots with lightning-fast optics capable of photographing a license plate in the blink of an eye, or hundreds of license plates during a single patrol.

But according to documents obtained by The Gazette under the Colorado Open Records Act, the devices are watching more than just law breakers.

Colorado Springs police reports show that use of license-plate readers has allowed the city’s police department to construct a searchable databank containing hundreds of thousands of license plates belonging to ordinary drivers, with each entry disclosing when, and where, police last spied a certain vehicle.

The information — which potentially gives investigators a view into where people travel and how they spend their time — is characterized in internal police documents as a “massive intelligence database.”

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