Tag Archives: license plate

License plate scans are used here

The in basket: Jerry Jurgens of Poulsbo e-mails to say “I recently heard on the radio that some state in the mid-west had a policy of having police taking photos of the license plates of cars in a general and continuous format, not just when they were stopping a vehicle for some citation or infraction.

“That, in and of itself, seemed a bit Big Brotherish but what sort of raised my hackles was that everyone could acquire that information through the freedom of information act. That means that an insurance company, a jealous wife, a predator, etc. could get records of where your vehicle goes on a routine basis and where it had been on a number of specific days.

“Does Washington State take photos of license plates and if they do, what is the policy as to who has access to that information?” Jerry asked.

The out basket: I asked only the State Patrol and Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office about this, and both say they have such a capability.

Trooper Russ Winger  of WSP says it “utilizes the ALPR (Automated License Plate Reader) in two capacities at the moment.

“The Auto Theft Division utilizes some vehicles equipped with the camera/computer system to identify possible stolen license plates and vehicles. If there is a ‘hit’ on a plate, the detective can investigate further and has several ways of cross checking about the validity of the hit prior to taking action to stop and identify the vehicle and driver/occupants, if present.”  Any  information not of value to those purposes is automatically purged from the system each 60 days, he said..

“Another use of the ALPR is at the WSF terminals,” Russ said. “WSP’s Division of Homeland Security uses the system to screen vehicles. Only law enforcement has access to the WSP information and the same retention policy is utilized for stored information.

Deputy Scott Wilson of KCSO says, “The sheriff’s office has one ALPR installed within its fleet of marked patrol vehicles, as a result of a grant from the federal government. It’s use has added to the sheriff’s office capabilities to check for stolen vehicles or those identified as being involved in major felony criminal cases.

“Unless the ALPR detects a vehicle that has been previously reported stolen (as the scan is taking place), the sheriff’s deputy operating the ALPR has no access to the information contained in the ALPR database.

“License plate scans into the ALPR database are downloaded at the end of the deputy’s shift and retained by the sheriff’s office for six months. Access to this information is limited within the sheriff’s office to supervisors and is granted when there is a law enforcement investigatory purpose,” Scott said.

He also said Kitsap Sun reporter Josh Farley wrote an article about the installed ALPRs in local law enforcement patrol vehicles in November 2009.

Here’s the link:  http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/2009/nov/28/bremerton-police-adding-an-eye-on-the-street/#axzz2Gxh3ZW5c



License AAA0000 seen frequently around here

This photo found on Facebook

The in basket: Richard West writes, “In March 2010 your article mentioned the new seven-digit license plates starting to appear in Kitsap County. It also mentioned that the first plates went to Whitman County (the Colfax-Pullman area).

“As I watch cars with the new plates all around the area, I have noticed a car with what might be the first plate, AAA0000, seems to spend a lot of time in the Kitsap area.

“Is it a WSU parent? Maybe your contacts can shed light on who got the first plate.”

The out basket: The plate is registered to a Mason County resident, says Brad Benfield of the state Department of Licensing.

“The transaction for the first plate was processed through our headquarters office here in Olympia,” he said, “so it appears the actual ‘first box’ or at least part of that box was retained here for use by our staff who still process some transactions by mail.”

The Mason County owner of that plate may have been savvy enough to have placed his or her order with the intent of getting the first plate in the series, or it might have been happenstance.

I was of the belief that ordinary citizens could pay to learn who owned cars with particular plate numbers, but I was wrong. The federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act passed in 1994 places restrictions on what information a state licensing department can release. It appears it wasn’t even true before then.

“The federal law spells out pretty clearly who can get registered owner information,” Brad said. “Beyond law enforcement/legal or other government use, the release of this type of information is limited to uses where it is required to conduct a particular business — like parking lot or towing companies.

“There are no provisions for the release of this type of information—for a fee or otherwise—for news gathering or to satisfy curiosities about a vehicle’s owner,” he said.

Of course, if the owner of that plate happens to learn of this discussion, perhaps he could e-mail or otherwise contact me and tell the story of what it’s like to own license AAA0000.


In fact, Paul Petrinovich, owner of AAA0000, got the word and you can read about that plate and his other 50,000 0r s0 at http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/2011/sep/14/license-plate-collector-scores-a-first/


What to do with an old license plate

The in basket: Shirley Morgan wonders what she should do with her old license plates when she is required to replace them, as we all are about every seven years.
The out basket: I asked Brad Benfield of Department of Licensing if my first-blush notion that cutting up the plates and recycling them with metal is the best idea. He replied:
“You have a couple of options for disposing of them. The
first option is putting them in your recycling or trash (depending on
your local solid waste disposal requirements). DOL recommends cutting
them in half if you choose to do this.
“Old plates also can be dropped off at your neighborhood vehicle license
office. This is a good option for anyone who doesn’t have the ability to
cut their plate in half,” he said.
“Of course, there are other, more creative solutions for old license
plates. Sometimes they wind up in the hands of license plate collectors or
others who hang them as decorations. Others have used them to build
birdhouses or as the covers for notebooks. I also occasionally receive
requests for old plates from Hollywood prop houses who want to use them
in television shows or movies,” he said.
On the subject of plates, my e-mail recently brought a warning that gas thieves have taken to stealing good plates and putting them on their own cars so the plate’s owner gets the blame when the thief drives off without paying for gas. Check frequently to make sure your plates are on your car and report their theft immediately if not, said the e-mail.
Snopes.com, the urban legend buster, says that’s good advice, though disguising a stolen car or armed robbery get-away car would be a more likely motive for the theft of plates than gas drive-offs. The growing practice of most stations of requiring payment for gas in advance by credit card or otherwise makes plate thefts for purpose of stealing gas “not really information that needs to be spread to everyone’s nearest and dearest at the speed of light,” said Snopes.