Friday, May 29, 2009

Big Brother Watch: TX Senate would authorize license plate readers on TX highways

I've been busy elsewhere and neglected to mention that the Texas Senate approved an amendment authorizing the damn license-plate readers after TXDoT denied a request by the DEA last year, discussed previously on Grits here and here. In their blog post on the story, the San Antonio Current lets us know that "Texans who are concerned about Article 33’s Orwellian implications can use a form set up by the ACLU to ask their representatives to call for it to be taken out of the bill."

Potential for significant unintended consequences lie in these devices' deployment, particularly in Texas, where high traffic fines, sometimes with absurdist "civil" fees larded on top, have combined to leave more than one in 10 drivers with outstanding arrest warrants - mostly for traffic tickets - widespread use of license plate readers would make theoretically possible a dragnet that would overwhelm the jails and courts in a heartbeat if it were ever implemented to even a fraction of its full potential.

The solution is to scale back those too-high (and mostly unpaid) fees, not to use the jails as debtor's prisons in order to generate a revenue stream. Conference committee members should strip this ill-considered provision out entirely.

MORE: From the Texas Observer.

AND MORE (June 1): After the red-light camera lobby had their way with the conference committee, this legislation thankfully died. We'll find out by the end of session whether that necessitates a special session or if the Lege can resuscitate a "safety net" bill to keep the Department of Transportation going without completing the sunset process.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't think 1 in 10 is right, the article says that in El Paso and Austin, 1 in 10 drivers have outstanding arrest warrants; large cities.

What about Southlake, TX or Paris, TX? I bet the figure is quite a bit lower for the state.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Why do you think that? The issue is drivers who have no insurance getting multi-year civil penalties that ed up costing them their driver's licenses. What evidence do you have that people have insurance at higher rates in Southlake or Paris than El Paso or Austin? I think it's likely pretty comparable.

Anonymous said...

I recently watched a demo clip on a system like this from British Columbia that is circulating on the web. It was pretty scary stuff and the guy says it will "revolutionize" the way they do police work. Said it would capture 3000 plates an hour going through a parking lot!

Anonymous said...

If these things are used, poor people will not be able to go to the local Super Wal-Mart.

I agree, Texas cannot afford the prisons and prisoners it has now let alone a debtor's prison.

Anonymous said...

Gee, our calendars are wrong. It's 1984, not 2009. Where's the soma so I can take a holiday?

Anonymous said...

This is the most absurd thing I have ever read! What is wrong with whoever inserted this bill in with another bill, and when are you in the Legislature going to take the "crowns" off your heads and stop thinking you are untouchable.

I for one am tired of your nonsense and to let this type of bill go through is totally an act of illness on the part of all who voted for this bill and the person who added this bill to another, this should never happened.

Why don't you just capture all of us, tatoo numbers on our arms and put micro chips in our ears who you can locate us at any time. This is obsurd, to state lightly and you should be ashamed of yourselves and may God have mercy on your souls.

Texas does not have the money now to adequately care for the people who have lost jobs and your studdering around lost the $555 Million from the Federal Government that would have helped fund the unemployed until possibly some jobs opened up for the unemeployed. You want to put more people in jail, well we cannot take care of the ones we have.

There will be some changes made at there in the coming years and some of you will be gone.

Anonymous said...

Crime is usually higher in urban areas, so I suspect that the number of people with warrants is lower in suburban and rural jurisdictions.

Anonymous said...

@10:23: What is your definition of crime? If you mean muggings, ok you might be right. But what about all of those folks in places like Southlake, Highland Village, et. al with outstanding summons for DWI, Assault on a family member, and white collar acts? If you include THOSE folks I would bet the percentage would even out somewhat.

Forrest Wilder said...

Also worth pointing out that the North Central Texas Fusion System is planning to store data from license plate readers in their "intelligence" database.

http://www.texasobserver.org/floorpass/comments/coming_to_a_texas_highway_near_you_license_plate_readers

Boyness said...

Houston has 2 or 3 city jails, Pasadena, Deer Park, League City, and other municipalities in Harris County all have city jails that are FULL of misdemeanor traffic offenders who cannot or did not pay there traffic fines. All of these people are either waiting to see a judge or they are SERVING TIME. Combine these city jails with Harris County's 10,000 inmate jail system and the state's 112 prisons and it's pretty clear that EVERYONE IN TEXAS will be in jail or in prison or WILL HAVE BEEN THERE at some point. This state is a totalitarian police state and has been that way since Anne Richards started building prisons and George W and Pick Perry went off the deep end criminalizing everything in sight. Something has to give but Texans WONT CARE until PO-PO comes after them!

Boyness said...

Anonymous said...

It was pretty scary stuff and the guy says it will "revolutionize" the way they do police work. Said it would capture 3000 plates an hour going through a parking lot!

5/29/2009 10:32:00 PM

The last thing we need is anything that "helps" cops to be more "lazy". I feel about this like I do about roadblocks. Go out on patrol, run plates when appropriate and DO YOUR JOB.