Sen. Dennis Damon, D-Trenton, made his case for LD 1561: An Act to Regulate the Use of Traffic Surveillance Cameras, at a Feb. 5 public hearing at the Statehouse.

“My concern is for the protection of our freedom, and in this case our right to privacy,” said Damon, who wants to keep the Automatic License Plate Reader, referred to as ALPR, at bay.

“Just because we can do something doesn’t always mean we should,” said Shenna Bellows of the Maine Civil Liberties Union. “ALPRs place too much data-mining power in the hands of the police and those who breach their system.”

Bellows said the ALPR can track movements of ordinary citizens around the community using a virtual map. “If we adopt this new technology, we will find ourselves grappling with significant embarrassments and harms in the future,” she said.

South Portland Police Chief Ed Googins opposes LD 1561. “I urge you to think about this technology as an additional tool we use to do our job,” he said.

Googins said the database contained a “hot list” of people wanted for arrest, criminal suspects and missing persons. The officer on duty, said Googins, must visually compare the photo image to make sure the system reads the number correctly.

“It does not identify or know who the registered owner of the vehicle is,” said Googins, who added capturing images of license plates is not new technology, as patrol cars have contained video cameras for “well over 20 years.”

Googins proposed limiting the retention of the images to 30 days, unless there was reasonable belief the information could become evidence in a criminal or civil action.

“Our right as free citizens is in jeopardy,” said Damon, who alleged that computer hackers could gain entry to the database. “The globe has shrunk, anyone can do anything when it comes to the Internet. Having all my personal information accessible by all kinds of people is unacceptable.”

For more information on this bill, go to mainelegislature.org.