What if in the future individuals' movements were tracked wherever they went and that the information was stored by the government? While the Orwellian concept may seem extreme, it's something that privacy advocates like the American Civil Liberties Union say is closer to reality than many may realize. License plate readers or LPRs have become standard police equipment in Vermont and around the country. The cruiser-mounted devices allow law enforcement to collect the license plate of every car on the road.
In Vermont, all that data is funneled to a Homeland Security-funded fusion center in Williston where it is kept for four years. But a bill moving through the state Senate seeks to place limits on the amount of time the data is stored.
"If we want to get into a world where all the data that has ever tracked our whereabouts of what we've done-- be it cellphones, be it license plate readers, be it video cameras-- we're talking about the government having mountains of information that basically knows exactly where we've been 24/7, 365 days a year, all of your lives," said Allen Gilbert of the ACLU.
While the ACLU and public safety officials have found some common ground-- like placing tight restrictions on who can have access to the data, or what constitutes a legitimate law enforcement purpose-- a fundamental disagreement continues on the length of time the data should be stored. The ACLU says the norm around the country is 30 days. Public Safety officials say they are willing to reduce the number of years to one or two, but they're reluctant to go further.
From the O'Hagan murder case to Tuesday's shooting of a North Carolina trooper, police say LPRs are an invaluable tool.
"The North Carolina trooper that was shot yesterday-- we were able to plug that operator's vehicle into our LPR system. If in fact he wanted to come back home to Royalton, one of our LPRs could have picked him off the highway," Vt. State Police Col. Tom L'Esperance said.
Police say the readers can also prove someone is innocent.
"Because of the fact that we are in this new world and there are heinous crimes that occur to our most vulnerable people, I think sometimes that we have to give a little bit," said Sen. John Campbell, D-Vt. President Pro Tem. "The thought that we could have solved a murder or stopped a kidnapping of a child-- I'm willing to give up a little bit."
Lawmakers exploring the right balance between privacy and public safety.
Saturday, May 25 2013 10:30 PM EDT2013-05-26 02:30:05 GMT
A burglary at the Dorset Union Store. Police say the Church Street business, in Dorset, was broken into sometime late Friday night or early Saturday morning. At this time, we do not know what was stolen.More >>
Police search for a suspect that left his blood at the crime scene.More >>
Saturday, May 25 2013 8:13 PM EDT2013-05-26 00:13:06 GMT
Governor Peter Shumlin is urging Vermonters to be vigilant as the rain continues to come down. Especially, he says, with the possibility of wet snow that could bring down trees and damage property. ShumlinMore >>
Governor Peter Shumlin is urging Vermonters to stay safe as the rain continues to come down.More >>
Saturday, May 25 2013 8:09 PM EDT2013-05-26 00:09:12 GMT
First responders scrambled to drain a private dam Saturday afternoon to avert major damage. Officials say the dam on Poker Hill road in Underhill nearly burst Saturday afternoon. Members of the localMore >>
First responders scrambled to drain a private dam Saturday afternoon to avert major damage.More >>
Saturday, May 25 2013 7:58 PM EDT2013-05-25 23:58:16 GMT
Rain-battered state roads in the hardest hit areas of Underhill and Jericho are re-open to traffic, but that doesn't mean the work is done for crews. "It's been a very challenging two-day event here soMore >>
As the rain continues to pour down, response crews are not getting a break.More >>
Saturday, May 25 2013 7:51 PM EDT2013-05-25 23:51:37 GMT
Driving along Route 15, you may notice some roads have reopened as crews guide drivers cautiously around the cracked gravel. But driving down roads like North Underhill Station, you won't get very far. ConnerMore >>
While needed repairs are being made, more work is ahead.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 11:30 PM EDT2013-05-25 03:30:10 GMT
A hole in the road closed one of the routes into Canada Friday.State Police say Route 5 in Derby Line is closed near Caswell Avenue because of a hole in the pavement just a couple of feet over the lineMore >>
A hole in the road closed one of the routes into Canada Friday.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:17 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:17:06 GMT
It was a storm that left residents with more damage than they could have ever imagined. "The basement has about 13 inches of water," said Bob Genter of Underhill. And preparing for the aftermath of theMore >>
Flash floods left destruction across the region. And the rain is not over. Heavy downpours left some people trapped in their neighborhoods as emergency crews work to try to clear the roads.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:20 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:20:50 GMT
As the cleanup gets underway from Thursday night's flash flooding, the focus shifts now to the broader impacts of rising rivers from around the region. All the rain so far and more to come is running intoMore >>
All the rain is running into larger streams and rivers that are moving rapidly toward flood stage.More >>