Binghamton City Mayor Richard David has announced that a network of automatic license plate readers, (ALPR) will be strategically placed along all roadway entrances and exits to the city. David states that the cameras will be linked in a high-speed fiber-optic network fueling a database recording information on every vehicle. In public statements, David touts decreasing criminal activity as the impetus for this $700,000.00 expense.
This is government over-reach in Constitutional proportion, directly violating the 4th Amendment protection against “unreasonable search.” A system of 24/7 continuous surveillance of the comings and goings of every vehicle in the city is outrageously intrusive and insulting to the law-abiding residents who have a reasonable expectation of not being tracked by their own government. Many Binghamton police cruisers already have these cameras installed. What the public likely does not know is these readers consolidate their data into a mega-database that has little to no judicial oversight. The information gathered includes the license plate number, the time of day, the date, and the location of every vehicle that passes by. This information is then cross-referenced with another database that matches the registration information of the vehicles ownership to that license plate number, thereby disclosing the vehicle owners name, address and any current wants, warrants or other legal information that might alert officials to stop that vehicle.
This idiotic endeavor is the antithesis of what we know in America to be freedom.
Casting this wide of a net over the law abiding to catch the less than one percent involved in criminal behavior, or even something as minor as an unpaid parking fine, is over-reach by any reasonable observation. Rationalizing this program as legal and just on the basis of the fact that the City of Freeport on Long Island has already done something similar is equally idiotic. Since when does proof of legality and validity exist on the basis of the theory that someone, somewhere else is doing it too? Freeport reports a drop in crime since they implemented their program, but again, at the expense of our liberty? What sad irony that a place in New York with the word “free” as a part of their name, has volunteered to lose that freedom.
Over-reach is over-reach. No justification exists sufficient to topple a fundamental right citizens have to be left alone, scrapped for a few more arrests, no, that is a trade-off not to be made in America. These kinds of social privacy sacrifices are common in socialist countries but not to be tolerated in a free society.
Tightening the legal system to keep criminals off the streets in the first instance is a better solution than performing mass surveillance on a free people.
Who better to consult with then one of our Founding Fathers? Benjamin Franklin was looking into the future when he said, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty or safety.”
Mayor David, this is a bad idea, scrap it.