LAPD says every car in Los Angeles is part of an ongoing criminal investigation


Would it be illegal of me to make and sell bumper stickers with CA DOT license plate typeface on them to confound the license plate readers? Especially if each bumper sticker had a different fake plate on it?

“No one is innocent, citizen. We are merely here to determine the level of your guilt.”
– Judge Dredd.


You’d think. Also, license plates have a special IR-reflective paint on them, so your fake lp probably wouldn’t show up. Maybe an IR-absorbing but otherwise transparent substance would dampen the signal? That’s probably illegal, too, but harder to detect.

SFPD found our stolen car using this technology - which they apparently only have on two patrol cars. Not commenting on the right or wrong, but it does help solve crimes.

Excellent, but that scanner doesn’t have to save every plate it sees in order to compare a plate to a list of known stolen vehicles. It can crunch that data on board, and then forget what it saw (the innocent people).

Technology -can- actually be used to solve crimes, without committing more crimes like this example of warrentless mass surveillance.


My esteemed legal counsel from Los Angeles advise me that you are innocent until you’re proven guilty:


As long as there is any unsolved crime in America, all citizens are suspects. All you need to do is to get one judge to sign a warrant for Everyone, for all time, and be done with it.


My favorite section of the response, which I translate as “You can’t infringe on the privacy rights of the people, only we can”:

Based on the foregoing, this Court needs look no further than section 6254(f) in resolving this matter in favor of Respondents. That said, there are additional grounds for concluding that ALPR data is exempt from disclosure to the public. One of those additional grounds is section 6254(k). Section 6254(k) exempts from disclosure “[r]ecords, the disclosure of which is exempted or prohibited pursuant to federal or state law, including, but not limited to, provisions of the Evidence Code relating to privilege.” Under both federal and state law, individuals enjoy a right to privacy. This right is enshrined in the California Constitution, Article 1, section 1, which gives each citizen an Ill 7 RESPONDENT LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT’S MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES IN OPPOSITION TO PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE
1 “inalienable right” to pursue and obtain privacy. 2 The CPRA itself explicitly recognizes the importance of privacy: “In enacting this chapter [the 3 CPRA], the Legislature, mindful of the right of individuals to privacy, finds and declares that access to 4 information concerning the conduct of the people’s business is a fundamental and necessary right of 5 every person in this state.” §6250. (Emphasis added.) Thus, even in declaring the right to access 6 information “concerning the conduct of the people’s business,” the Legislature acknowledges the 7 individual right to privacy. The release of ALPR data would infringe on this right.

While the US constitution is one of the best it did not foresee a future where electronic servants could cheaply monitor in minute detail and even analyse all public activity and then never forget.
The economics of surveillance have been turned on its head once humans were not needed to collect and file it. Unfortunately the courts are more interested in the letter of the law than the intent invoking the basis of civil rights in common law to overturn the police state industrial complex.
At one point it was feared that enumerating a bill of rights would prejudice other rights not mentioned, we have overshot that mark a long time ago if they ever truly existed for anyone other than the white male Christian landowner.


So what they’re saying is, “Revealing how we’ve violated everyone’s privacy would be a violation of their privacy”? I can see a small flaw in their argument…


The collection stop but it has to be controlled by a public ombudsman. The solution calls for an entity completely removed from police and executive branch influence to act as a trustee of the information which upon a proper showing of necessity can be combed through by the trustee, who should be a judicial branch officer a privacy trustee or ombudsman. There needs to be a barrier between the police/prosecutor [you rarely see them disagreeing] and the information.


… because some day, someone driving that car may commit a crime …


… sometime, someday, the government will be working on a puzzle and one of those pieces will fit.

Isn’t this somewhat related to fallacious legal arguments caused by the confusion between the probability of the crime given the evidence and the probability of the evidence given the crime?

We can clearly postpone no longer data collection on all grave-spinning folk, in anticipation of the day when we’ll need to demonstrate that one of them is a Mr Thomas Bayes.

Ahh, so the year 1984 was just an arbitrary choice.


Maybe not Catch 22, but it’s a good one.

Much closer to Minority Report.

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Come to think of it, this draft press release that fell through a time warp from several years in the future may have some bearing:

We at the Los Angeles Police Department have long considered every vehicle on Los Angeles’s roads to be “part of an ongoing criminal investigation.” But, after due consideration, we have determined that this is not enough.

Therefore, at our request, a circuit court judge has today issued a warrant for arrest as a material witness for all 5,387,291 citizens of the city of Los Angeles.

Due to space constraints at the city jail, most of those affected will be taken to special material witness detainment camps outside the city, specially built for this purpose. Expedited bail proceedings will be available for those persons whose quick release is deemed vital to the functioning of the government or economy of Los Angeles or neighboring municipalities. Other persons may be held without bail.

Please turn to local media for the location of your neighborhood collection point, and then report there as soon as possible.  SWAT teams are presently preparing to collect any stragglers.

While this course of action may seem “extreme,” or “literally impossible in a democratic society,” or even “illegal,” we would like to remind all concerned citizens that this operation is based on well-established legal precedent. If we can consider every vehicle in Los Angeles to be part of an ongoing criminal investigation, how then can we be constrained from considering every person in Los Angeles to be part of an ongoing criminal investigation? And, given the near-certain flight risk, it would therefore be irresponsible not to issue material witness warrants!

While some malcontents may seek to interfere with the course of justice, we expect most Angelinos to help us make the city a better place. Or else.

(Oh, sorry, not “press release from the future,” but “satire on flawed legal reasoning.” I always get those two mixed up. But my point stands!)


In this case yes.

I should have specified that I meant something more holistic/systemic by that.

Yep - we can’t be in 1984 because Newspeak would never contain the word “LOL”, even though it does kinda fit the pattern.

If you want to make your license plates harder to read, there’s this website.

But I do believe that the countermeasures they sell are in fact illegal in most jurisdictions.