Applying AI to License Plate Surveillance
License plate scanners aren’t new. Neither is using them for bulk surveillance. What’s new is that AI is being used on the data, identifying “suspicious” vehicle behavior:
Typically, Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) technology is used to search for plates linked to specific crimes. But in this case it was used to examine the driving patterns of anyone passing one of Westchester County’s 480 cameras over a two-year period. Zayas’ lawyer Ben Gold contested the AI-gathered evidence against his client, decrying it as “dragnet surveillance.”
And he had the data to back it up. A FOIA he filed with the Westchester police revealed that the ALPR system was scanning over 16 million license plates a week, across 480 ALPR cameras. Of those systems, 434 were stationary, attached to poles and signs, while the remaining 46 were mobile, attached to police vehicles. The AI was not just looking at license plates either. It had also been taking notes on vehicles’ make, model and color—useful when a plate number for a suspect vehicle isn’t visible or is unknown.