Watch: What’s the big deal? Automatic license plate readers in Lexington, Ky

What's the big deal? Automated license plate readers in Lexington, KY

Automatic license plate readers (ALPRs), also known as license plate recognition (LPR) systems, are a technology used by the Lexington Police Department to scan and record the license plate numbers of vehicles. One company that produces ALPR systems is Flock Safety, which markets its products as a way to improve public safety, reduce crime, and streamline parking management. However, there are several issues with the use of Flock’s ALPR systems that have raised concerns among privacy advocates and the general public.

Invasions of privacy

ALPR systems operate by collecting data on the movements of every vehicle that passes by a camera, regardless of whether the vehicle is involved in any wrongdoing. This means that the data collected by these systems includes the locations and movements of innocent people, which can be used to build detailed profiles of individuals’ activities and habits.

Lack of transparency

Flock and other ALPR manufacturers often do not disclose how they use the data collected by their systems, leaving the public in the dark about how their personal information is being used. This lack of transparency makes it difficult for people to know whether their privacy is being violated and to hold these companies accountable for any misuse of the data.

Misuse of data

There have been instances where ALPR data has been used for purposes other than the stated reason for collecting it. For example, in one case, an ALPR manufacturer was found to have sold the data it collected to a third party, who used it to track the movements of a journalist. This kind of misuse of data raises concerns about the potential for abuse of the information collected by these systems.

Racial profiling

Some studies have found that ALPR systems are more likely to flag vehicles belonging to certain racial or ethnic groups for further investigation. This raises concerns about the potential for these systems to contribute to racial profiling and discrimination by law enforcement.


The implementation and maintenance of ALPR systems can be expensive, with costs ranging from tens of thousands to millions of dollars. These costs are often passed on to taxpayers, who may not see a corresponding benefit in terms of public safety or crime reduction.

Overall, while Flock and other ALPR manufacturers may argue that their systems improve public safety and streamline parking management, there are serious concerns about the invasions of privacy, lack of transparency, potential misuse of data, and the potential for racial profiling that these systems can create. It is important for the incoming Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council to carefully consider the potential risks and costs of using ALPR systems and to ensure that they are used in a way that respects the privacy and civil liberties of the public.

📸 A Flock Safety license plate reader in use. (Flock Safety)