Camdens New Notice System Tags Plate Numbers in High Crime Areas

Television crime shows do a great job of explaining an officer’s right to collect evidence that is found in plain sight or has been discarded to the public such that the owner loses their right to the expectation of privacy. An example that is often used is the one where an enthusiastic police officer is seen digging through a garbage bag left on the street. The suspect seems to always raise an object which the officer laughs off.

Although the shows make this kind of practice look like a joke, the expectation to privacy is something that is taken very seriously by someone charged with a crime. In Camden, New Jersey, a new public policy is raising some eyebrows and receiving criticism that it crosses the line.

The new policy cost the city $1.8 million and plans to increase the scope of the program are already in place. So what is the new policy? It is a camera observation and notice system. Cameras were installed in some of the areas around the city that have been labeled as a “high crime” area.

Police sit behind a video screen where they record license plate and vehicle information of cars, trucks and other automobiles they see stopped in the area. There are currently 81 cameras installed and hundreds of license plates have been recorded.

Once a plate is recorded, a notice is sent out to the owner that reads, “Not only has your vehicle and tag number been recorded, appropriate criminal and/or traffic offenses may be charged if our investigation reveals your vehicle and occupants to be involved in illegal activity.”

So is this new policy crossing the line? Could the records become an avenue for abuse? What are residents of the area saying about the new policy? In our next post of this two-part series, we will discuss some of the response.

Source: South Jersey News, “Visitors to Camden’s high-crime areas to be put on notice,” Claudia Vargas, Feb. 10, 2012

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