Thursday, July 10, 2008

Feds want to install license plate readers along Texas highways; TXDoT says "no" so far

When the Texas Legislature authorized red light cameras last year in SB 1119, no one ever mentioned the idea of installing license plate readers along the highway to track travelers who aren't breaking any laws. But that's what the Drug Enforcement Agency and federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) task forces want the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDoT) to agree to, according to testimony at yesterday's Senate Criminal Justice Committee hearing.

Stan Furce, Director of the Houston HIDTA, said the feds were prepared to spend nearly $15 million to install license plate readers along Texas highways, but TXDoT has told them the law does not allow it.

Clearly when the Lege authorized a "photographic traffic signal control system" they were approving red light cameras, not any possible photographic technology. Several provisions in the statute clearly preclude the feds using the bill as authority to put up a stateside monitoring system, including this passage:
Before installing a photographic traffic signal enforcement system at an intersection approach, the local authority shall conduct a traffic engineering study of the approach to determine whether, in addition to or as an alternative to the system, a design change to the approach or a change in the signalization of the intersection is likely to reduce the number of red light violations at the intersection
So a photographic traffic enforcement system must a) be implemented by a local authority, b) requires a traffic engineering study and evaluation of alternatives, and c) must be aimed at reducing red light violations. TXDoT is right to reject this proposed slippery slope; not only was it not the Legislature's intent to allow use of license plate readers, doing so on a statewide basis would clearly violate the statute as it's written right now.

9 comments:

Abiding Joy said...

Big Brother right at our door.

Anonymous said...

There used to be an automated license plate station out on I-10 near el paso that would search for stolen cars...

Also, TxDOT allows contractors to put cameras out reading plates all the time for txdot's own traffic studies so I don't know what they are talking about with the law doesn't allow the practice.

samriver said...

The negative side of all the new computer technology being created is its being used to enslave people. All this new technology and the spy laws that are supposed to be limited are in the long run expanded to control the populous. Allowing machines to monitor human beings is the sure sign of a police state.

Anonymous said...

It won't be long...but I'm proud to see that we are staving that one off for the moment!

Anonymous said...

Along with the next iteration of 'water bills', 'raises for state district judges to enhance legislator pension' bills and such, you can bet our johnny-on-the-spot defenders of freedom in the lege will slip in authorization for this drek. I can hear Tommy Williams now, telling me how he secures our border (but not explaining how watching us does that).

We have not dodged a bullet, this will very likely be filed in one bill openly (txdot funding?) and sneak in hidden elsewhere when the open filing rouses opposition.

Good luck to us all

Anonymous said...

But DOT already has a way to track license plates, it is called the vehicle licensing process.. you know the one, you go to the courthouse and purchase the right to slap one of these on your car, and they ask for ID and insurance...

I think the high point next year for the State and Federal agencies is when they get that whole bar code on the forearm passed through... Adam Walsh Act #2, We don't know if it was a sex offender who grabbed him or not, so let's just tag everybody!!

Anonymous said...

I believe TxDOT is already monitoring vehicle tags in their TexTag program for people who get one of these for the toll road program. Also, I know in Houston, people who somehow go on toll roads, sometimes without even realizing it, are, to their surprise, billed at home for big bucks for the tolls and penalties because they failed to pay at the time. The bill says exactly how many miles they traveled on the road and exactly when.

Anonymous said...

The EZ tags are tracked, both by the toll readers and by readers along non-toll roads. This is how the 'travel times' to downtown or wherever are tallied for the traffic reports.

I do not and will not take an EZ tag, but several years back the lege proposed putting RFID chips in your inspection tax sticker to effectively track everyone, claiming this would end insurance fraud or some such nonsense.

Govt is on the march and freedom is retreating; let's change that equation now.

Anonymous said...

TXDOT discussed putting plate readers on I35 @ Hillsoboro over 2 years ago. They got yelled down. But how do we know they didn't go in?