AUSTIN – Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Effective Justice Policy Analyst Greg Glod issued the following statement on the Austin City Council vote last Thursday to postpone approval of purchasing Automatic License Plate Readers (ALPRs) with civil asset forfeiture funds procured by the Austin City Police Department.
“We commend the Austin City Council for looking more closely at a contract that has several troubling aspects that requires further examination. First, the use of ALPRs have invoked recent controversy across Texas, with some jurisdictions, such as Kyle, rescinding their contract agreements after learning more information on some of the more troubling aspects of the technology. ALPRs have taken millions of pictures of license plates across the state in jurisdictions that utilize them, and without legislation restricting how this information is used there is an obvious privacy concern.
“Second, ALPRs can ‘ping’ an officer in real time as they drive past an automobile if the individual has an outstanding warrant, including those who only owe fines and fees on a traffic ticket. If an individual cannot pay the fine off at the point of the traffic stop, the officer can arrest that individual. This will likely hit the poor the hardest as they are most likely unable to pay the fines and fees in the first place.
“Third, the practice of civil asset forfeiture allows law enforcement to take property from citizens without ever convicting or even charging them. The poorest citizens would be most affected by this practice, which uses their own seized property to fund equipment that would adversely impact disadvantaged communities.
“We look forward to working with council members in the coming weeks to provide technical assistance as they look more into the subject.”
Greg Glod is an attorney and policy analyst with the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a non-profit, free-market research institute based in Austin, Texas.