Police Just Guessing When They Can't Clearly Read License Plate In Red Light Camera Photos

from the close-only-counts-in-horse-shoes,-hand-grenades-and-red-light-tickets? dept

We recently wrote about a guy “caught” by a redlight camera who had to decode the numerical codes on the photos sent to him to prove he didn’t actually run the red light. It was disturbing enough to find out that police were sending motorists tickets when they obeyed the law, but reader Brent points us to an even more problematic situation. Apparently, at least some police are simply taking guesses on license plates if they can’t read all the letters correctly — and they’re sending tickets to the wrong people because of it. The police in the story insist that if they can’t read the plate, they won’t send a ticket, but the reporter covering the story shows at least two cases where that’s simply not true, and where it seems clear that police just took a guess — sending tickets to the wrong parties.

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Comments on “Police Just Guessing When They Can't Clearly Read License Plate In Red Light Camera Photos”

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Hulser (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

did they also look at the video or other still shots to determine the plate?

Yes, there was a video, but wouldn’t you think that the police would select the best still image that clearly identifies the license plate rather than some random blurry image from the video? This is of course only my opinion, but if the police can’t find a single still image from the video that identifies the licence number, then the ticket shouldn’t be issued.

did they make a typo? saying it is a guess is, well, a guess.

While I agree in principle that you can’t rule out the possibility that it was a typo, based on the quality of the still, I’m guessing that the reporter’s guess was a good one.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

the stills are often taken with a very high resolution camera and flash, timed to get the best angle possible under normal circumstances. the video runs in part to show the actual offense occuring, if it goes to court. the video is often not of as high quality as the still image. however, the video might be enough to help to seperate out the issue.

a typo is a possiblity. consider that in a 1 year period, the report was made aware of only 2 cases, against untold thousands of tickets. i would have to say that if heart surgeons had a success rate like this, they would be considered gods. heck, mike has a lower accuracy rate on his posts.

most importantly, the report is guessing that the police are guessing, and now mike is guessing that the reporters are right. too bad the title suggests definitive proof where none exists.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“It is clear…” is a much more compelling phrase than “It seems clear…”, which you complained about earlier; “seems” is a wishy-washy, full-of-doubt word, but “is”… well, that’s pretty factual now, isn’t it?
Don’t MAKE me tell you what you make of U and ME when you ASSUME….

Anonymous Coward says:

Why not go for maximum revenue enhancement?

Here’s my idea.

Instead of hiring qualified enforcers of the law to do data entry, why don’t they just offshore all the human parts, and then run it through an automated phone tree?

The proposed tree would work like this:
>> Press 1 if you’d like to set a court date.
>> Press 2 to pay the fine. A $4.50 telephone convenience
>> fee will be added to your ticket.
>> Press 3 to speak to an account specialist.

If you press 3, you’ll be transferred to a keyboard jockey in Mumbai named “Bill”. “Bill” will insist that the picture sent with the ticket, is your car. They will tell you your white car is actually black because of a reflection in the lens. “Bill” will not budge, and instead try to get end the call within 90 seconds to meet his daily call center goals.

It’s genius because you get the same result, and the municipalities also collect an extra $4.50 from the 90% of the suckers who don’t dispute it.

Anonymous Coward says:

“did they also look at the video or other still shots to determine the plate? did they make a typo? saying it is a guess is”

Is there some kind of special video that isnt made up of a series of still shots.

If you get the vehicle make, model, color, and plate wrong; and they are not guessing, suggests a much more fatal flaw in the system.

BulmaRO says:

they should try

it may take more work but.. here in mexico when we register the plates for a car.-. they take the brand, the color of the car and the type.. like seddan or stuff similar.. then they must.. if theyre guessing the plates at least check if the plate theyre ticket-ing matches with the car registred to the guessed plate,.. its not fail proof but a little bit closer to accurate, that as always.. its just my opinion.

The Devil's Coachman (profile) says:

Re: Not a habit

And your certainty is based on what? A guess? Based on what? Nothing at all? Right! I imagine you must have done really well in school, basing your certainties on guesses when taking tests. Was 2.0 a commendable passing grade in your school? Oh, and I would also think that your expressed “doubt” also confirms the legitimacy of your certainty. Wow, you are a master of Self-delusional Logic. Well done. Now, begone!

Lachlan Hunt (profile) says:

They’re supposed to be able to narrow down partial matches by looking up the make and model of the vehicle that is registerred to matching number plates.

For the case illustrated in the video, they should have been able to find a set of partial matches based on the visible digits “7598 ?S”. I assume they can also determine other information like the state in which the vehicle is registered based on the design of the plate.

They can then find all the vehicles that match those criteria, then narrow it down by the type of vehicle. So it’s hardly a guessing game. It just seems like in this case, that last step somehow went a bit wrong. I guess maybe the offer who sent the ticket confused the description of a trailer with that of a semi-truck.

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