Weston City Commission Approves Plan to Monitor License Plates & Vehicles

Big Brother will be watching you more closely in the near future. The Weston City Commission voted to approve the purchase of 14 automated License Plate Readers (LPRs) for $768,000 at a meeting last month. The automated systems, which both read license plates and capture pictures of every passing vehicle, will be installed at entrances/exits to the City and at Regional Park. 

Weston BSO Police Chief Cavalieri proposed installing the LPRs, which automatically record each license plate that comes into view, along with the location, date, and time. The data, which includes photos of the vehicle, is then uploaded to a central server and kept for an undisclosed period of time.  

The technology will automatically notify law enforcement personnel when vehicles listed on Amber Alerts, Missing Persons, Silver Alerts, Wanted Persons, and All Crimes Bulletins are observed. It will also host a history of every vehicle that passes by an LPR on its server. The database will effectively keep track of every vehicle that enters or departs Weston.

The project’s $768,000 cost will be partially reimbursed by funds seized by the BSO from alleged criminals.  The “Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act” is a Florida law that enables law enforcement agencies to take contraband that has been used in the commissions of felonies and sell it. The cash received from these sales is deposited into the Law Enforcement Trust Funds account. The money can be used by the same law enforcement agencies that took the contraband to buy equipment like License Plate Readers.

The installation of this type of permanent surveillance and the funding method are not without controversy. Privacy advocates are concerned that monitoring the comings and goings of ordinary citizens and members of the public could be used for less justifiable purposes. 

An ACLU report on these systems stated, “The knowledge that one is subject to constant monitoring can chill the exercise of our cherished rights to free speech and association.” The standard to access the records is quite low, requiring only a “law enforcement purpose” rather than the stricter probable cause or warrant standards other surveillance methods require.

License Plate Readers have become quite popular with law enforcement agencies over the past decade. 15 Broward County cities, 21 Dade County cities and 13 Palm Beach Cities have already deployed the systems.