The wealthy City of Paradise Valley, a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona, began installing dozens of license plate readers in the past few weeks, and instead of slapping them onto poles where they could be easily seen, they’re hidden inside fake towering cacti. Seriously.
LPRs are normally mounted on light poles and traffic lights to scan for stolen cars or vehicles involved in an Amber Alert, but cities and counties have been stashing them in dozens of different covert locations, from car’s fog lamps to retrofitted ladders. And in Arizona, it’s not uncommon to see antennas camouflaged as a cactus, so the decision – at least from an aesthetic point-of-view – makes sense.
At least that’s the argument the town’s manager Kevin Burke made after the police and city officials initially denied Fox 10 News’ request for comment.
Burke said the cameras are not being put in fake cactus to be secretive, but because there are no light poles in the area to put them on. He says they’re trying to make the cameras aesthetically pleasing. It’s all part of a $2 million police technology upgrade the council passed last year.
Burke also said that the LPRs weren’t active yet, but as Ars Technica discovered, the system has already recorded it’s first “hit”.
“By hiding them in this manner, the town appears to know that what they are doing is either wrong or will be perceived as negative,” privacy activist Mike Katz-Lacabe told Ars. “If the cameras are a useful and legitimate tool, why are they attempting to hide them?” Probably because they’re ugly, but also because they’re creepy.