McKeon: Staties exploring expanded use of plate readers

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Written by Antonio Caban

The new head of the Massachusetts State Police said Thursday that the department is “contemplating” expanding the use of license plate readers — a technology critics say infringes on privacy but was also recently credited for helping catch a gunman who murdered two Virginia television employees.

“It’s hard to say now. It’s still being contemplated how we would address that,” Colonel Richard McKeon told reporters after he was sworn in by Gov. Charlie Baker as the new superintendent and colonel of the Massachusetts State Police.

[Watch: McKeon Press Availability]

A license plate reader (LPR) is a scanner, often affixed to vehicles, used by police to automatically detect vehicles with outstanding violations. The Virginia State Police credited the technology with locating a suspect they say was responsible for killing two WDBJ-TV employees Wednesday.

Without going into detail about specific cases in Massachusetts, McKeon said LPR technology has been used by the State Police to track down suspects. McKeon called the technology a “useful tool” but also recognized that its use is a “sensitive issue.”

“We have to balance people’s rights with some of the investigative techniques that we use. That’s a challenge that we have,” he said.

Concern over LPRs has even inspired some lawmakers to filed legislation regulating their use. The bills: H 3102 sponsored by Rep. William Straus, H 3009 sponsored by Rep. Jonathan Hecht and S 1817 sponsored by Sen. Cynthia Creem, have all been referred to the Joint Committee on Transportation.

Copyright State House News Service