Illustration for article titled How An Automatic Plate Scanner Found A Murdered Womans Car

The Jeep Cherokee belonging to a slain business professor was found by Washington, D.C., police thanks to an automated license plate scanner matching every passing car to crime databases. Wait, they can do that? Score one for Big Brother.


The system, one of the most extensive in the nation, was installed in 2008 at 40 sites around Washington, with another 160 portable scanners put into police vehicles. The cameras use optical character recognition and links to terrorist or criminal databases to read a plate and report any matches to police within a fifth of a second.

D.C. police say the system alerted them when the Cherokee belonging to Sue Ann Marcum passed by late Monday. Marcum, an American University business professor, was found dead in her Maryland home earlier in the day, the victim of what may have been a botched robbery. After a chase, police stopped the vehicle and arrested an 18-year-old D.C. man for driving a stolen vehicle.


At the time the plate system was installed, police agencies said they would be useful in fighting terrorism, while civil libertarians questioned how the data would be stored and who would have access.

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[Fox 5 DC]

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