Maryland will become the first state in the country to create a statewide network for data collected from license plate readers, Gov. Martin O'Malley announced Wednesday, Aug. 4.
An existing network that makes that data available to state law enforcement agencies will be expanded to include Maryland's localities. The single database will be housed in the state's fusion center, and the state's license plate readers "will be networked to ensure seamless coordination and consistent information sharing during critical incidents," according to the state.
In the past three-plus years, Maryland has made $2 million available to law enforcement to deploy 105 license plate recognition units around the state, according to the governor's office. As part of Tuesday's announcement, in the next 12 months Maryland will add 100 more license plate readers, paid for by a combination of the federal Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, federal homeland security funding and the Maryland Department of Transportation.
"Protecting the public's safety is among our most solemn obligations as public servants. Using this technology to dramatically reduce vehicle thefts keeps our neighborhoods safe and enhances the quality of life for every Marylander," O'Malley said in a statement.
Officials in charge of the expanded license plate network were unavailable for comment Wednesday.
Thousands of police departments in the U.S. have at least one license plate reader. The cameras typically are mounted in police patrol cars or at fixed locations, such as bridge toll booths. Law enforcement agencies use them to detect scofflaws who don't pay tolls or parking ticket violators, or to find stolen cars and vehicles of parole violators. As the camera scans the license plate, the data is cross-referenced in real time with crime and traffic violation databases.
Some privacy advocates have complained the technology is unnecessarily intrusive and can in some cases be an invasion of privacy. Maryland said citizens' rights will be protected in a manner that's consistent with other public safety policies.