Opinion

License plate scanning: We are all safer for it

The Washington State Patrol’s (WSP) new system of scanning vehicles’ license plates at the ferry docks of Bainbridge Island and Seattle has people screaming “Big Brother” from the mountaintops.

But we are all safer for it. Unfortunately, we live in an age where stateside terrorism has become a reality. People are boo-hooing over the fact that these cameras are snapping pictures of license plates, but it’s simply a security measure to ensure everyone’s safety.

The system checks for whether the vehicle is stolen, if there is an AMBER Alert for the vehicle, if the owner is wanted for a serious crime (as in a felony) or if the license plate is associated with a known or suspected terrorist.

Not only does this new system search out suspected terrorists, which is a very real possibility these days, but also those who shouldn’t be on the streets anyway. A man who has just kidnapped a young child or even a wanted murderer could be identified by this new system, but people are against it because it takes a photo of just a license plate? The more security there is to potentially track criminals or those who could be a harm to others, the better.

“Recognition of the plate may be automatic, but any action is still taken by live police officers using discretion and good judgment,” said Capt. Mark Thomas, head of WSP’s Homeland Security Division. “The system simply alerts troopers to vehicles that might warrant some extra attention.”

These license plate photos aren’t being stored for years in some big vault, they are purged from the system after 60 days, according to WSP. And registered owner information is not stored in any database associated with the system.

It is the state’s responsibility to keep ferry passengers safe. Should these precautions not be in place and something catastrophic happen, people will undoubtedly question why more wasn’t done to ensure passengers’ safety.

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