The latest in surveillance state technology will soon be operating on the streets of Portland according to an article in today's Portland Press Herald.  Known as ALPRs (automatic license plate readers), the cameras are mounted on a patrol car and use character-recognition software to read numbers and run them through databases. 

With the impressive ability to scan and photograph nearly every plate that crosses it's purview, it's easy to understand why police departments are adopting them across the country. 

However, given their high cost and the undue invasion of privacy, ALPRs are not an effective community policing tool. 

South Portland began using the scanners last year, the first town in Maine to do so.  According to the Portland Press Herlard article, South Portland Police Lt. Frank Clark credits the scanners with "the recovery of two stolen vehicles, as well as charges against 41 people for operating after license suspension or operating with a suspended registration" over a 16 month period.

I'm not convinced booking license and registration suspensions are indicative of successful policing.   I would feel much safer having police patrolling with their eyes rather than relying on the virtual slot machine in the cruiser.

Let's hope Portland ultimately decides the ALPRs are not worth it.  It would set a nice precedent for Maine.