Virginia Crime Board Grants $1.6 Million to Local Law Enforcement for Advanced License Plate Readers

RICHMOND — Regardless of pushback by certain individuals worried about security, the Virginia Law enforcement Administrations Board on Thursday granted $1.6 million in awards to neighborhood states for the acquisition of new tag perusers.

As part of a larger award of $53.5 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds for law enforcement equipment and training, those grants will enable 32 localities to purchase 212 of the devices.

Members were informed by staff that they were unable to separate the grant money for the license plate readers from other funding for training and equipment.

The debates that were sparked during the previous session of the legislature were brought back to life by the decision. During that session, the General Assembly killed legislation that would have codified a 2020 decision by the Virginia Supreme Court that allowed law enforcement agencies to use and store data from license plate readers while limiting most data storage to 30 days.

During the session on Thursday, critics of license plate readers reiterated their concerns that the technology compromises Virginians’ privacy.

The license plate readers, according to Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, reminded him of George Orwell’s “1984.”

Deeds stated, “We want a safe state, safe communities, safe roads, but we also have to respect people’s privacy.”

However, other members stated that license plate readers are a useful tool for law enforcement and are already permitted in Virginia.

“We continue to discuss ‘a right to security.’ No one has a privilege to protection with their tag,” said Caroline Circuit Court Judge Sarah Deneke. ” Therefore, let’s eliminate that immediately.”

According to Craig Branch, Germanna Community College’s board chair and police chief, the use of license plate readers must be restricted by the General Assembly.

Currently, license plate readers are in use. So why should we say you can’t get a tag peruser when it’s reasonable and being utilized at present?” He stated

In 2015, Virginia policing the innovation to assist with finding the shooter who shot two columnists in Roanoke during a live transmission and afterward escaped three hours away to Northern Virginia.

“I think we really want to permit policing additional apparatuses in their tool compartment to assist with authorizing a portion of these traffic occurrences that are out there and recuperate a portion of these absent and took advantage of kids that we see all over the ward,” said Del. Scott Wyatt, R-Hanover.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia filed a lawsuit in 2015 challenging the Fairfax County Police Department over its use of license plate readers and the storage of their data, which the group claimed violated Virginia’s Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act. The lawsuit asked whether law enforcement should be allowed to use the technology in Virginia.

In 2020, the Supreme Court of Virginia ruled in favor of the police department, allowing them to continue using the readers and storing the data they collect.

Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax City, introduced a bill in 2021 that would have stopped law enforcement and regulatory agencies from using devices to collect and store personal information without a warrant.

The most recent legislation on the subject would have made it illegal for police to use readers to enforce speed limits, traffic rules, tolls, or requirements for high-occupancy vehicles. Unless it was being used in an active law enforcement investigation, information recorded by the plate readers would have had to be deleted after 30 days.

In spite of expansive early help for the action, the Overall Gathering suddenly killed it during the last days of the 2023 administrative meeting.

According to Jackson Miller, director of Virginia’s Department of Criminal Justice Services, it is unclear why the legislation that “a corporation” requested was rejected by the General Assembly on Thursday. He didn’t name the organization, in spite of the fact that Deeds talked over and over about Group Security, a tag peruser organization that has contracts with various nearby legislatures in Virginia.

“The assembly has not for a long time put in any regulation or limitations for nearby or state policing use tags,” Mill operator said.

In a joint letter to lawmakers, a number of organizations, including Justice Forward Virginia, the ACLU of Virginia, and the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, voiced concerns regarding privacy in the days leading up to the final votes in the House and Senate. In the letter, they characterized the action as “grim and harmful.”

The ACLU of Virginia’s policy strategist Shawn Weneta stated that the organizations were particularly concerned about Flock Safety’s capacity to share data with jurisdictions across the nation and charge localities for a subscription service.

Weneta stated, “We don’t know what the legislature is going to do.” The assembly in 2024 could basically say, ‘We will boycott them.’ Also, presently we’ve burned through a great many dollars in ARPA subsidizing that could be going to better choices like local area policing, similar to target examinations that have been demonstrated to be more successful.”

Source – Wydaily