An innocent motorist was recently pulled over by police in Prairie Village, Kan., after a false alert by a license plate reader.
“As there were tons of cars around me, I was not certain who they were pulling over, but as I had been at the light some time, I did not think that I had had the opportunity to do anything to interest the officers, so when traffic permitted, I pulled forward with it, slowly,” Mark Molner, a local attorney, told the Prairie Village Post.
“At that time, the cruiser darted in front of me and attempted to pin me by parking diagonally across both lanes of traffic, and the motorcycle took up a place directly behind me,” added Molner.
He recalled that one police officer had his gun pulled when approaching his vehicle.
“He did not point it at me, but it was definitely out of the holster,” stated Molner. “I am guessing that he saw the shock and horror on my face, and realized that I was unlikely to make a scene.”
After running his license plate, a police officer told Molner that a license plate scanner mounted on his cruiser misread a “7″ on Molner’s license plate as a “2.”
The license plate reader mistakenly alerted the police officer that Molner was driving a stolen Oldsmobile. However, Molner was driving a BMW.
“Due to rush hour traffic, he was unable to compare the two tags prior to activating a traffic stop,” Police department spokesman Capt. Wes Lovett told the Prairie Village Post. “What he did know is that the tag from the [license plate reader] came back to an Oldsmobile, however, that doesn’t mean the tag isn’t stolen. The BMW could be stolen or it could have simply been a switched tag.”
Molner countered, “I’m armchair quarterbacking the police, which is not a good position to be in, but before you unholster your gun, you might want to confirm that you’ve got the people you’re looking for.”
According to ArsTechnica.com, license plate readers can scan and match 60 license plates per second. Thousands of license plate readers are used by police in the U. S. The information captured by a license plate reader may be kept indefinitely.
The Blaze reports that millions of license plates have been scanned and entered into databases that are available law enforcement, but also to private investigators and insurance companies willing to pay for the info.
Sources: Prairie Village Post, The Blaze, ArsTechnica.com