License plate reader set to be mounted at a KCMO intersection

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- For the first time ever Kansas City will have a stationary license plate reader at an intersection.

They've been on cop cars for years, but KC will now be getting its first stationary intersection license plate reader, which shows police what cars travel through that intersection and when. Resident Terry Clapp has mixed feelings.

"You kind of need that because there are a lot of criminals riding around, and that would give them access to them to apprehend them right away," Clapp said, but also added. "It might be what you would call a double-edged sword. If they're misusing that information for people that are decent, hardworking, honest people, then I do have a problem with that."

The city said yes to the technology, aware that some have privacy concerns.

"A fixed license plate reader mounted at an intersection is observing public roadways, just as if a cop were sitting on that corner in his car looking at license plates," said KCMO spokesman Chris Hernandez.

Defense attorney Howard Latven gets that, but worries more about why police need to keep the license plate information they gather for months.

"Our law is not set up to keep data just in case, so we can go back at a later date and try to catch somebody. It has to be at the moment," Latven said. "I think it's even a greater invasion of privacy."

"Because these technologies are new, we don't have the regulations and laws to keep up with them," said Jeffrey Mittman, the executive director of the Missouri chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

His office is surveying police policies statewide, and says there are some good systems in place, but nothing uniform.

"We don't want Big Brother government watching us all the time and keeping data, and currently without regulations to protect against it, without public outcry that we're not willing to accept that, that could be where we end up," Mittman said.

Privacy is one issue, Clapp worries about another.

"As long as it's in a busy place, not in a so-called "minority neighborhood" where you get profiling," Clapp said.

The city is currently deciding which intersection to install the license plate reader. It has already been purchased and will be up and running by the end of 2014.

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