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How An Automatic Plate Scanner Found A Murdered Woman's Car

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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Spiegel - ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ - Hopes to post on oppos!



O: DC Metro 911 emergency, what seems to be the problem Mr....Spiegel Hernandez.

S: Oh good, hello. I've just been mugged! My name is—wait how did you know my name?

O: We checked your phone records and cross referenced the number with the one you're calling from, now you're in the corner of 13th and H-street, correct?

S: Wait how did you—

O: The call was triangulated based on the position of the cell towers around you and we confirmed it by looking at the traffic camera right behind you, near the light pole.

S: Wow I didn't know you could—

O: Sir, I've gone ahead and deactivated your cards so the mugger won't use them. Well it wouldn't matter since your credit card is at its limit...why are you paying for 4 World of Warcraft subscriptions?

S: Wait, you can do that? Why are you checking my—

O: Oh I see, you're paying the subscription of the clerk of the coffee shop you frequent in the hopes she likes you back...and her kids subscriptions as well? Sir I don't think that's going to work.

S: How the hell do you know which coffee shop I go to?

O: We have your urine sample results from your last doctor's visit 3 weeks ago, also you sodium is a little high.

S: Now hold on one damn minute you—

O: Probably from eating all those Big Macs...They're in the records as well.


O: It looks like the mugger has been caught 5 blocks off from where you are, an officer will come around with your belongings shortly, is there anything else you need today Mr. Hernandez?

S: How do you have the right to—

O: Patriot Act.

S: Oh...

O: Have a good day. *click*