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CCTV Network Tracks Getaway Car 434

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the but-can-it-recognize-a-good-deal-on-car-insurance dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The BBC is reporting that a 'pioneering number plate recognition system in Bradford played a vital role in the arrests of six suspects' after the murder of a Policewoman - within minutes of Friday's shootings, police were using the system to track the suspected getaway car." From the article: "When a car is entered on the system it will 'ping' whenever it passes one of our cameras, which makes it a lot easier to track than waiting for a patrol car to spot it."
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CCTV Network Tracks Getaway Car

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  • by Scrameustache (459504) on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:20PM (#14085562) Homepage Journal
    Big Brother is watching you. Don't you feel double plus safe?
    • by kentrel (526003) on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:23PM (#14085583) Journal
      I know, its terrible. People can't commit murders now without being tracked by the police straight away. What has the world come to!
      • > I know, its terrible. People can't commit murders now without being tracked by the police straight away. What has the world come to!

        Citizen kentrel anteposting approved fullwise suggestion contained thisposting doubleplus ridiculous verging crimethink

        "There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was conceivable that they watched everybody all the time.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:34PM (#14085702)
        Just wait until someone commits a crime USING this system.

        Its a lot easier to rob a bank and flee the country when the police all go after your "Getaway Car" in London while you take the train to Calais.

        It's also a lot easier to find those pesky activists that don't like cameras everywhere.

        Or round up undesirables for imprisonment.

        Or single out your rival.

        Or stalk your ex.

        Or find a diplomat's motorcade.
        • It's even simpler than this. What this is is a repeatable pattern of using an invasive technology, showcasing an instance where it does some good, and people accepting that particular little anecdote as sufficient enough reason to give up the very privacy the technology invades. Being watched constantly will ensnare ner-do-wells - it's true.

          But there's that "at what price?" question just hanging there with these little privacy invasions like a noose around its neck. It's great that this murdered woman's killers were caught. But at the price of being constantly watched, constantly scanned, for the rest of my life? No, thank you.
        • by arivanov (12034) on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:58PM (#14085915) Homepage
          Well... If the system was so good why the f*** did the car get all the way from Bradford to London? That is 4+ hour drive across half of the country.

          What you are seeing here has nothing to do with the merits of the system. It has something to do with typical newsmanagement by Tony Bliar cronies. Similar to the one they tried on the "Good day to Burry Bad News (9/11)". They want to push this system as a replacement for speed cameras with the difference that speed will be checked every 400m, not in specific locations. Further to this you have the transport secretary which is waiting in the wings to use the same network for charging per road use.

          The only problem - the road users are just a few inches short of wanting to lynch 'em both. So what do you do in this case - get good publicity. And this all this is about. And using the death of a mother with 4 kids in the line of duty for this is as appaling as it can get.

          By the way who is the criminal idiot who sent two unarmed, untrained women without body armour to investigate a reported armed robbery in progress?
          • By the way who is the criminal idiot who sent two unarmed, untrained women without body armour to investigate a reported armed robbery in progress?

            The police officers were the nearest to a reported incident at a private currency exchange for Pakistani businessmen and their families. There was no way of the owners to indicate that this was an armed robbery although the location was a frequency location for armed raids due to the large sums of money being exchanged. The officers had basic body armour - enough
          • by Calibax (151875) * on Monday November 21, 2005 @10:02PM (#14087321)
            First of all, I speak as ex-police officer. The parent post shows a serious lack of knowledge of this crime and British policing.

            According to press reports, the two police officers were attending a report of a disturbance. There was no information that this was an armed robbery in progress, and the police women just happened to be the closest officers. Please remember that most city policing in Britain is done by cops on foot walking the streets with inimate knowledge of their beat area; not by remote seeming individuals running around in cars. For example, in the division that I last worked, we had 29 foot patrols and 4 vehicle patrols - which isn't to say that there aren't other vehicles around (traffic division cars, tactical patrol group, special patrol group, vice, Criminal Investigation, etc.)

            Gun crimes are rare in Britain - there is no legal way for any individual to own a gun and there are stiff penalties (like jail) just for possession. Having a gun is considered a more serious crime than having drugs. If a police officer suspects that they may be faced by a person with a gun they have only to use their radio and armed officers will be on their way within seconds - literally. Guns are available at all police stations, and many (perhaps most these days) police officers are trained in using them.

            In five years as a police officer, including over 1,000 arrests, I was never faced by anyone with a gun, and I can only recall a handful of times that officers had to call for backup because of suspected gun use. However, I was faced by knive wielding people six times and five times I disarmed them without injury to either of us. The first time I was faced by a man with a knife I wasn't quick enough and received a cut to the back of my hand that needed ten stitches, and the knife wielder received six years in prison.

            According to all press reports, the policewomen involved in this incident did have body armor. However, body armor doesn't stop all bullet types, and there are bullet types specifically designed to penetrate such armor. The principle reason that most officers wear body armor is to protect themselves from knives, a much bigger threat than guns. Of course, this doesn't apply to all officers, those who carry guns (diplomatic protection group, anti-terrorist group, special patrol group, royal family protection officers, etc.) expect to face guns and wear appropriate protection.

            Police work can never be totally safe. In Britain approximately one officer a year dies in the line of duty. However, the most common cause of death is being run over by a vehicle, deliberately or accidentally. Over the last 30 years, 12 officers have died to gunfire, and three of those were in a single incident in London.

            British police value the fact they are generally unarmed. It makes the general public feel less intimidated by officers, and there is a general sense of public cooperation with the police that far exceeds that of countries where the police are armed. There have been many strident calls to routinely arm the British police, but very few of these calls have been from police officers. I think that arming British police would fundementally change the way that the British police interact with the public and cause more incidents (such as the case where over-eager officers shot and killed a suspected terrorist in the London underground, and subsequently found out that the man was merely an electrician on his way to work with no terrorist connections at all.) It would also make criminals more eager to carry guns and more willing to use them.

            These two policewomen were just unlucky. A routine incident turned deadly. It happens, but it's pretty infrequent. Rules should not be based on very rare incidents.

            The parent post asks why the car was allowed to travel all the way from Bradford to London. I don't know, but a number of possibilities come to mind. The most likely reason in my mind is that there was not a suitable location to isolate and take the
      • by Spectre (1685) on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:37PM (#14085732)
        Who watches the watchers?

        I know of suspicious/vindictive/controlling/abusive people who if they had the power to see where their spouse/ex-spouse/SO would certainly abuse the priviledge by doing so.

        I find it hard to believe that buddies of buddies wouldn't use something like this to say "hey, keep an eye on my SO, I've got to be on stake-out for the next few nights"
      • In this case it is a good thing. The question is how do you prevent it being abused? Or should you even worry about it. Do you have a right to privacy on while on a public road?
        I would say these are good questions to ask. Their isn't a simple good or bad answer to this. It does need to be discussed.
    • by MaestroSartori (146297) on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:25PM (#14085596) Homepage
      Next time I commit a crime and get my number plate followed using a system like this, I'll be horrified at the privacy invasion...

      Perhaps if/when they extend it to track all vehicles as a matter of course, I'll be worried about some Orwellian nightmare the way you seem to imply I should be now. Maybe if I knew how to drive and owned a car it'd be more of a worry to me now, I can't really say.
      • by crabpeople (720852) on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:40PM (#14085759) Journal
        "Perhaps if/when they extend it to track all vehicles as a matter of course, I'll be worried about some Orwellian nightmare"

        1) What makes you think they aren't?
        2) What makes you think you'll be able to stop them then?
        3) Do you think its impossible that some 'security agent' monitoring these cameras, doesnt want you going out with his ex wife and abuses the system?

        If they put cameras everywhere, everyone should have access to those cameras. Not a select few as it is currently. Anything else is 'us' against 'them' (police/state), and youd best be sure which side your on.

        "What is now real was once only imagined..."
        Guess that means you should care then

      • "Perhaps if/when they extend it to track all vehicles as a matter of course, ..."

        What makes you think it doesn't. With the police shooting people "just in case they're criminals", why wouldn't the police record every movement of every person all the time.
    • Only if you choose to drive a car. The US isn't much different, searches don't require a warrant if you're in a vehicle.
      • by technoextreme (885694) on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:34PM (#14085697)
        Only if you choose to drive a car. The US isn't much different, searches don't require a warrant if you're in a vehicle.
        I know you were modded up informative but the law does not say police have carte blanch to search your car. They do have every right to use drug dogs if they pull your car over but they can't go further if dogs turn up nothing.
        • The same goes in Canada. If you are pulled over for speeding, the officer will find no further evidence of speeding in your trunk.

        • It's pretty easy to train a dog to bark on command, even if that command isn't noticeable by others.
        • However, leaving your car unlocked essentially means you have consented to allow them to search your vehicle. Gotta love case law and precedent!
        • They do have every right to use drug dogs if they pull your car over but they can't go further if dogs turn up nothing.

          That was a major stumbling block for law enforcement, until they realized they could secretly train the new generation of drug dogs to detect gasoline. ;)

        • Just because the police don't have the right to, doesn't mean the police couldn't just as easily make up probable cause. Seriously, do you think that just because they're police officers, that they abide by the law?
        • by RingDev (879105) on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:56PM (#14085901) Homepage Journal
          "I know you were modded up informative but the law does not say police have carte blanch to search your car."

          Nope sorry. Thanks to the combination of the seat belt law and the patriot act police can now pull you over for not wearing a seat belt and immediately search your vehicle. No warrent needed. Because as we all know, terrorist don't wear seatbelts. (In the US)

          -Rick
          • police can now pull you over for not wearing a seat belt

            Only in places where seat belt use is a primary crime. LOTS of states, that isn't the case. They can ticket you, after stopping you for something else, but they can't make the initial stop based soley on non-seatbelt use.

            • "Only in places where seat belt use is a primary crime."

              Sure, but they can use virtually ANY excuse to pull you over if they see/think that you don't have it on. Oops, that car weaved a little to the left, better pull them over type of thing. The difference between a primary/seconday crime is really how convenient it is for the police to enforce it (or how much of a cover story they need...)

              In other words, the difference between primary and secondary traffic infractions is rather meaningless. About as usefu
        • by dougman (908) on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:58PM (#14085913)
          Correct - here's [flexyourrights.org] a great page on just what to do in the event you are stopped.

          In summary:

          1) Keep Your Private Items Out of View
          2) Be Courteous & Non-Confrontational
          3) Just Say "No" to Warrantless Searches
          4) Determine if You Can Leave
          5) Do Not Answer Questions without Your Attorney Present
          6) Do Not Physically Resist

          Some of this really goes to "No good deed goes unpunished". Even if you have nothing to hide and did nothing wrong doesn't mean you should roll over and expose your belly.
    • Once again, That Which Was Depicted in Demolition Man has come to pass.

      HUXLEY: Is the doctor's car still in the lot?

      COMPUTER: The answer is no. Car missing. Doctor's conveyance is not in parking zone. It is in motion.

      HUXLEY: Locate precise code-fix on doctor's conveyance.

      COMPUTER: Fixing location. Beverly Hills.

      Robertson.

      Doheny.

      Beverly Drive.

      Vehicle has been code-fixed...

      ...approaching the corner of Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevard.

      HUXLEY: Glorious.

      CHIEF: Fine

  • I for one (Score:3, Funny)

    by carlcmc (322350) on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:22PM (#14085573)
    I for one welcome our no-murder enforcing CCTV-watching overlords.

    Privacy? They killed a policewoman. let em hang. whoops... do they do that in Britain? :-)
    • Re:I for one (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anne Thwacks (531696)
      let em hang. whoops... do they do that in Britain

      No ... because 12 out of the last 13 people hung later turned out to be innocent.

      A good portion of the people murdered in Britian have been murdered by police: google "table leg" or "Menezes". I believe in the USA 75% of police shot are either shot with their own gun or by another policeman, so arming the police is not the answer either.

      • A good portion of the people murdered in Britian have been murdered by police: google "table leg" or "Menezes".

        Bollocks. A "good portion of the people murdered in Britain"? And you cite two examples? Both examples caused absolute outcry here, although the first one polarised opinion as opposed to the universal condemnation and shock caused by the second.

        I don't know the count of people murdered in this country last year, but sad to say it's likely to be an awful lot higher than two. The police have mad

      • "Last year (2003), 10 police officers were shot and killed in the United States after a suspect managed to get control of an officer's weapon. Nearly one in five officers killed as part of a crime last year were shot with their own (or a partner's) weapon, according to the National Center for Law Enforcement Technology." - Gotham Gazette [gothamgazette.com]

        1 in 5 is a lot smaller than 75% (although that's killed, not shot).
      • Re:I for one (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mustafap (452510)
        >No ... because 12 out of the last 13 people hung later turned out to be innocent.

        I think the last person shot was innocent too.
      • I believe in the USA 75% of police shot are either shot with their own gun or by another policeman, so arming the police is not the answer either.

        Those two causes don't have dick to do with anything. Police officers are most likely shooting in self defense or in defense of the public. People shot by their own guns could be criminals who were disarmed and then shot by their would-be victims. Might as well have said "50% of the people run over by cars were run over in their driveways" and then argue for a b
      • Don't know where you pulled that 75% number from.

        Of the 568 US law enforcement officers killed with a firearm between 1994 and 2003, 51, or 9.0%, were killed with their own weapon.

        In addition, 26 officers were killed by friendly fire (including 6 training accidents and 4 non-suicide self-inflicted deaths) out of a total of 697 accidental on-duty deaths.

        So, in total, we have 26+51=78 officers shot either (a) by assailants, with their own guns, or (b) accidentally by themselves or another officer, out of 594
  • by joemawlma (897746) on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:22PM (#14085574)
    "When a car is entered on the system it will 'ping' whenever it passes one of our cameras, which makes it a lot easier to track than waiting for a patrol car to spot it." If the "Ping" is above 100, I'm finding another server..
  • So that's OK (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:23PM (#14085586)
    So because it has one good use does that mean we should ignore all the possible misuses?
  • So sophisticated... (Score:5, Informative)

    by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:23PM (#14085587) Homepage Journal
    This system is so sophisticated they tracked it for 211 miles across the country.

    For a pioneering system, this sounds very well integrated or they are just using the bad news to give a reason for the cameras. It was only last week we heard about this for the first time.

    I don't like living in the UK. Big brother really is watching us :(

    (Though I am very pleased they caught these crooks in this instance, I still don't see why a criminal would go up north, rob a store then flee to the biggest city in the country. Don't these people think about lying low?)
    • The Police National Computer (PNC) maintains a list of all cars the police are currently interested in. All the ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) cameras in the country access that list. So as soon as the police worked out what the plate was on the car they wanted, they'll have entered it into the system, and all ANPR cameras in the country would pick it up when it passed by. Not that there are that many fixed ANPR systems. Basically Bradford and London from the sound of it (plus mobile ones).
    • 211 Miles??? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by queenb**ch (446380)
      I can't resist. They really tracked these boneheads for 211 miles before stopping them? Who's to say that the people in the car when they finally stopped were the people who were in the car when the crime happened? How about this for a scenario?

      1: Commit crime
      2: Drive to least favorite relative's house
      2: Loan car to (for me anyway) sister-in-law, who borrows everything & returns nothing, for vacation trip
      3: Laugh for a very long time while she tries to prove she's innocent.

      2 cents,

      Queen B
      • 1: Commit crime 2: Drive to least favorite relative's house
        3: Loan car to (for me anyway) sister-in-law, who borrows everything & returns nothing, for vacation trip
        4: Laugh for a very long time while she tries to prove she's innocent.

        5: cops come to see you once sister-in-law starts pointing fingers
        6: witness to the crime ID's you, accomplices rat you out for lighter sentences, hilarity ensues

        License plates don't tell who's driving, but anything that leads them to your door is probably gonna get yo

  • How does this system handle brand new cars which don't have plates? What about a thief who swaps the plates in a back alley before moving on?
    • All cars in the UK have plates, the dealer puts them on the car when you buy it (what an efficient system! Not like California where I had to wait 3 months for my plates to come in the mail!)

      But yes, there's nothing to stop a crook putting false plates on a car involved in a crime, which I'm sure many will do. Perhaps the system will pick up the fact that the plates are not the right ones though?
    • How does this system handle brand new cars which don't have plates

      Are you kidding? you can't drive a car with no plates in the UK unless you are the Queen. You would be stopped within two blocks, and charged with zillions of offences. Cars are plated before they leave the dealers.

    • How does it handle a thief that takes the plates and puts them on an entirely different car (of the same make if they are clever)?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:25PM (#14085600)
    If this concept spreads, criminals will merely switch from making getaways in cars to making getaways in boats. The speeds may be reduced, but boats have much less maneuverability and longer stopping distances. Risks to neighboring automobiles from anchors and propellers also promises to raise the number of injuries to innocents in this misguided effort to fight crime.
  • ...electronically flippable license plate. This cameras work off OCR and can probably be fooled that way. A similar network is being thought up for NYC, as part of a proposal to charge tolls for using the most crowded streets at certain times, specifically around mid-town. Apparently other cities have been pretty successful w/ such a system. The New York Times ran an article on this over the last month or so.

    I wonder how long it will keep records? Or would such a system look for patterns of behavior, like c
  • How about installing license plates that can switch numbers on the go? I know, I would use them.
  • by R3d M3rcury (871886) on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:29PM (#14085650) Journal
    "When a car is entered on the system it will 'ping' whenever it passes one of our cameras [...]"

    Ah yes. The machine that goes 'ping'!
  • by bernywork (57298) * <bstapleton.gmail@com> on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:29PM (#14085653) Journal
    2) What is it?

    1) It's the machine that goes Ping!

    2) What?

    1) We don't know what it does, it just goes "Ping" every now and again and we are scared to turn it off.
  • I hope the ACLU's British equivalent has been notified of this gross encroachment onto our civil liberties. It's appalling! Next thing you know, they'll be allowed to take DNA samples from prisoners to attempt to "link" them to crime scenes.

    The society we live in these days...
    • by close_wait (697035) on Monday November 21, 2005 @08:01PM (#14086496)
      Next thing you know, they'll be allowed to take DNA samples from prisoners to attempt to "link" them to crime scenes

      In the UK, they can take a DNA sample from an arrested suspect, and keep that data indefinitely even if the suspect is subsequently acquitted or not even charged. This has already been tested and found legal by the courts.

  • by wpiman (739077) on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:33PM (#14085693)
    Photoblocker. [photoblocker.com] It shines up your plate so much that it doesn't appear in pictures. It looks all washes out to cameras.
    • ... I used to get in my Inbox all the time. These people use spam to market their product, don't go their way. How legal is this stuff anyways? What happens when a cop pulls you over, and notices the camera on his dash can't see your plate, he will know that you put that stuff on it. In America at least, it would probably be under defacing government property.
    • It shines up your plate so much that it doesn't appear in pictures. It looks all washes out to cameras.

      It probably also makes the plate an even better target for LIDAR. Since both LIDAR and these traffic cameras use infra-red, I'd like to see a paint that was opaquely black (absorbant) to IR but clear in the visible spectrum.
  • by ToastyKen (10169) on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:34PM (#14085701) Homepage Journal
    These posters [subjunctive.net] were all over London when I was there a couple of years ago. No joke.
    • Holy crap. And to think Britain is the backdrop for "1984". I would think people would get more worked up over such a similarity and spray-paint over the signs or something.
    • Seriously, how do you NOT have people freaking the hell out after seeing that sort of thing? That would be enough to start riots here, possibly a small rebellion...and it wouldn't be partial to one side of the political fence or the other.

      Over here, you'd be a nice friendly picture of a cheery person with a headset watching a screen, like in the car insurance commercials.
  • ...there are always stuff like this. [phantomplate.com]
    I am not affiliated with this company in any way.
  • by DieByWire (744043) on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:52PM (#14085857)
    I can't find it on google right now, but the first day that Los Angeles began using automatic plate recognition, they generated a new type of 'stupid criminal' story.

    Some guy goes to a meeting with his probation officer, and parks in front of a squad car with the plate recognition equipment in it. The system pings his ride - which was stolen.

    Pretty convenient for the cops.

  • by Anonymous Cowpat (788193) on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:52PM (#14085860) Journal
    do they:
    1) input a number plate that they want to track and it pings every time they pass a camera, discarding records of number plates which aren't the ones being tracked (i.e. recognise plate, check against list of plates being looked for, if it's not on the list, discard)
    2) record every number plate and look through the logs to look when a particular one passed a particular camera, then keeping the logs until forever.
    3) some sort of hybrid, like keeping the logs for 24 hours to see what happened earlier in the day, but killing them after that. (like some sort of caching system)

    No1 I'd just about support (so long as there were adequate safeguards to make sure that it was only used to track suspects (not potential suspects) and I'd just about stretch to No3 so long as the logs really were being killed.
    No2, however, is a BIG no-no. Automated camera systems to track the movements of every car in the country and then keep that on a permanent record are VERY bad (although I suspect that is what happens). When did spending a vast sum on public money on an automated system to track the car-using public go through parliament?

    And another thing, where do the police get the idea that it's a given that they can 'deny the use of the roads to criminals'? take this very case, right now these people are SUSPECTS they haven't even been charged, as such they aren't 'criminals'. Someone explain why being a suspect means that you're no longer entitled to use the roads without being tracked? They'll be wanting tracking bugs in shoes next 'to deny criminals use of their feet'
    • From the news stories that have been going round in the UK, it seems that its No 1. The police had the number of a car which was parked near the crime scene, and put it into the system. The system then logged all appearances of the car, and made tracking it simple.

      The suspects they have picked up for this murder will be getting some pretty serious attention - the killing of a policeman in the UK is pretty rare, a policewoman rarer still. They will use everything they have to get someone charged.
    • Not bad at all (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SuperKendall (25149) * on Monday November 21, 2005 @11:38PM (#14087727)
      Automated camera systems to track the movements of every car in the country and then keep that on a permanent record are VERY bad

      You are anthropomorphizing the data (I refuse to make the obvious joke). The data itself is not bad or good. The data is just data, another tool.

      What is bad or good is the procedures by which this data is accessed, the uses to which it is put.

      The real question is - is this tool too powerful to exist? I do not think so as long as there is oversight in it's use, because it can do a lot of real good - as in the case of the killers being caught, or (potentially) a vast reduction in stolen cars.

      People like to argue that the genie is out of the bottle in regards to filesharing. Well, the genie of pervasive monitoring is so close to out as to make no difference. So we as humanity must adjust and figure out how we are to live with this very powerful tool, and make it serve us instead of fearing it just as the RIAA and ilk must figure how to live in a world when anything can be copied. This situation may seem dissimilar but it is not; something you do not wish to happen is becoming prevalent so instead of a futile battle to stop what cannot be stopped, figure out what leverage you have to control its use.

      Some people also claim the UK is now a "Police State". They are mistaken; the difference between a police state and this is that in a Police State is that you are always being WATCHED (or be made to think you are). In the case of the modern UK your public actions are constantly being RECORDED. There is a huge difference between activity and passivity.

      If a system is passive and takes no action without direction, if a person in order to direct a system to take action has oversight and rules binding what they may do, then I am generally OK with that system. A network of passive cameras that can be used to track fleeing thugs or stolen cars? Grand. A network of cameras that automatically issues tickets without intervention? Now that pisses me off and I think is a serious misuse of the power granted to the government. The sooner people see the difference the sooner they can push for oversight and reasonable use of the cameras.

      Having read David Brin I would argue that any feed from a public camera also be publically accessible. When anyone can watch anyone else, when the police as well as citizens are bothe being recorded in public - then there is equal footing.
  • ...... Gran Theft Auto murder sprees.
  • Fake plates (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jherek Carnelian (831679) on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:54PM (#14085871)
    All this will do is create a big black market for fake plates.

    If you are going to commit a crime, make sure you pick up a 10-pack of fake plates and switch them out randomly during your arrival and your getaway. Even better if the fakes use valid numbers off other vehicles in the same vicinity giving the coppers two nearby "pings" to choose from. They don't even have to be high-quality fakes, just enough to fool the cameras and anyone else looking at them from a distance.
  • by MtlDty (711230) on Monday November 21, 2005 @07:00PM (#14085931)
    Brilliant. The one good use for the ANPR system (tracking criminals) has now become public knowledge. That means your local gang-land thugs will find a way to avoid their registration plate being scanned (custom plate with obscure font). Meanwhile, every other law abiding joe normal will continue along their merry way, quite happy being scanned and tracked because "it's to help catch criminals".
    We end up with a system that spies upon and punishes the law abiding citizens that make accidental mistakes, whilst letting the professional criminals find an easy loophole. Its good to see my tax money finding new and creative ways to rape me of my income.
  • Poor criminals, suspected criminals, and people in general - deprived of their privacy in public spaces. How utterly Orwellian...

    To wit, folks, the license plate on the car belongs to the government. They're not tracking YOU, they're tracking their property. ;) I kid, I kid...

    Any crook truly determined to elude the police would just peel the layers of contact paper off of their car, each time they were spotted.
  • Tall Blond Man (Score:5, Insightful)

    by trurl7 (663880) on Monday November 21, 2005 @07:43PM (#14086343)
    Back in 1972 there was a French movie called "Un Grand Blond Avec Une Chaussure Noire" [imdb.com] (The Tall Blond Man With One Black Shoe). In the movie, the chief of French secret service lays a trap for his rival - he convinces him that a particular man is a dangerous and cunning secret agent that is planning to expose the rival's dirty secrets. This rival then goes crazy trying to investigate this "agent". The truth is that the man is, in fact, what he appears to be - a clumsy orchestra player. The movie is summed up with these lines:

    "...because when looked at closely enough, every man's life is suspicious".

    Individually, any of these systems may appear to do good things in individual cases. And the arguments for them always center around certain immediate benefits without considering the wider picture. The bigger truth is that such systems lead to a society full of anxiety, fear, and guilt, with arbitrary and random enforcement of the rules. There's a word for such conditions - the word is "despotism".
  • by sanx (696287) on Monday November 21, 2005 @07:49PM (#14086410) Homepage
    The UK does not have centrally-manufactured government-issued number plates. Most plates are simply fabricated by the dealer or an auto-spares outlet. When I used to work at one such outlet, we had a jig with an alignment stencil. You put the reflective backing plate down, laid the jig on top, dropped the required letters and numbers into the stencil, removed the stencil, and then placed a self-adhesive clear polycarbonate sheet over the top. Voila, one numberplate sandwich.

    No proof of registration is needed to make up a plate, as there are perfectly valid reasons for having spare plates. Trailers and caravans don't have their own registration - they display the number plate of the vehicle towing them. So you might very well have a couple of spare plates for your main towing car lying around that you can use.

    Even the dumbest of criminals will work around that problem before too long. Get spare false plates made up. Attach the false plates to the car using sticky-backed velcro or something similar. Immediately after you've carried out your robbery / murder / kidnap / etc. , duck into a car-park, rip the spare plates off, and drive away at a steady restrained place, happy in the knowledge that the cops won't be actually out looking for you, they'll be replying on Big Brother to spot your car.

    Britain is unfortunately becoming a surveillance society. In addition to the number of speed cameras dotted around the country (they outnumber trees in some areas) almost every town centre is covered by CCTV. The latest plan, as referenced in TFA, wants to place cameras every 400 metres on trunk roads and motorways. No doubt it will be described by Bliar & cronies as a way to fight terrorism and crack down on crime; in effect, it will be a way for the police to massively increase their revenue by being able to monitor your speed constantly, and automatically ping you should exceed the limit. They'll then introduce per-mile road charges, motorway tolls, etc. on the back of the technology.

    It really makes me very glad I left that country.

  • Public Eye (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Monday November 21, 2005 @08:07PM (#14086540) Homepage Journal
    We've got to accept that the police, the government, like anyone else, can observe us in public. But we've also got to ensure they don't take that too far, invading our privacy. Like keeping records of public observations too long, or cross-referencing with private info without just cause, or even invading our privacy beyond the public access.

    And we've got to apply that consistency to the police and government employees themselves. Public employees should be monitored, even if those records are available only to duly authorized government overseers. Every official should be recorded for review. Including police officers. The police especially would benefit from being monitored, if we replaced their "paperwork" to just fast-forwarding video with voice annotations that are transcribed. Then they can spend more time dealing with criminals and each other than with forms and bureaucracy. And their "witness" roles would all produce much more accessible evidence to be used by the rest of the justice system. Rather than having to believe an officer's "word", which gradually undermines its credibility, police videos would make it faster, cheaper, easier and more reliable to administer justice. And budget-strapped precincts could auction the bloopers to C.O.P.S. shows.

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