License plate reader sparks debate between civil liberty group and law enforcement

COLUMBIA, Mo. - License plate scanners have been used for a year in Boone County and are becoming a vital tool for authorities on the roads.

This past week, nearly a quarter of the number of stolen vehicles have been recovered compared to all of 2012.

But the fact that all cars are scanned by the license plate readers and the information could be stored for future reference has some groups upset.

LPR's read every car that passes by but only alerts police if there is match -- this is something attorney Dan Viets and the Missouri Civil Liberties Association is upset with.

"The police don't need to know where all of us are at all times, they in essence have a tracking device on everybody when they use these license plate readers indiscriminately -- and that is apparently what is being done," said Viets.

Authorities say that is not the case.

Drivers not speeding or weaving have no reason to be pulled over.

But LPRs allow police to identify the vehicles that aren't obvious targets.

"It may seem like just another vehicle that is another law-abiding citizen, however, we have the technology there to enable us to say wait a second, that's not a law-abiding citizen and alert us," said  Sgt. Brian Leer with the Boone County Sheriff's Department.

Viets says the information the LPRs <word missing> are being stored in a database and the government or police have no reason to know that information, comparing the LPR device to entering a home without a search warrant.

"Obviously law enforcement could be much more effective if they didn't need a search warrant to ransack all our homes anytime they wanted," Viets said.

"I can walk up and down the street and see all these license plates that the LPR are seeing as well. All it's doing is seeing it, comparing it to a list. So yeah, I think that is a complete stretch to even compare those two as far as barging into someone's house and a camera reading a place in a public area," said Leer.

Leer said no other personal information shows up when the LPR gets a hit.

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