License plate readers (LPRs) are being used by law enforcement agencies across the United States -- and West Michigan is no exception. As you drive by these readers, they are tracking your moves.

How do License Plate Readers Work?

LPRs are high-speed cameras that capture images of license plates. That information is then checked against databases of vehicles of interest -- such as stolen cars or those with outstanding warrants. They can also be used to track the travels of a missing person and can help track suspects in Amber Alerts.

License Plate Reader
Photo: WZYZ-TV Detroit via YouTube

The Pros and Cons of Using License Plate Readers

The use of LPRs in West Michigan has been met with both support and criticism. Some will argue that these readers are an effective tool in crime prevention and can help catch dangerous criminals.

Critics of these devices argue that the technology can be used for unwarranted surveillance and may violate individual privacy rights. There are also concerns about the accuracy of the technology, as errors in license plate recognition could result in innocent people being wrongly identified as suspects.

Where are the License Plate Readers in West Michigan?

Many police agencies have the license plate readers installed on the computers in their cruisers. There are also several stand alone readers mounted alongside some area roads. Early last summer, the Kent County Sheriff's Office started using Advanced License Plate Readers (ALPR) at 25 undisclosed locations. They teamed up with Flock Safety of Georgia and are using the cameras for free for a one year period.

The Sheriff's Department says the cameras only read the license plates and never record pedestrians or drivers. The cameras take a picture that identifies the make, model, color, and any type of features on the vehicle. Only a specially trained group of staff at the Sheriff's office has access to the information.

The information will only be used to investigate crimes and any information that isn't tied to a criminal investigation will be deleted on a regular basis.

Here is a story that Fox 17 did on the installation of the cameras last summer...


Here is a story from WXYZ TV about the Michigan State Police using this technology near Detroit...

As you drive down West Michigan roads, be on the look out for the LPR cameras on posts along the roadside. As you look for them -- they will be looking for you!

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