Updated: Are Automatic License Plate Readers Targeting Lawful Gun Owners?
The headline of this post has been changed to better suit the content in which I’m asking a question not asserting anything as fact.
I’m getting feedback via social media saying that the whole story is false, but I don’t really know what that means. Are they saying Filippidas wasn’t stopped? That he was stopped and not pestered to produce his gun? I don’t know. The police haven’t said anything and commenters have been angry and vague. The only bit that might be meaningful is this comment from Facebook:
Shane Schapiro As the Union President for the MDTAP this article is false. Tag readers are used by police all over the state for traffic suspensions, open warrants, missing children, missing adults, terrorist list. Additionally the facts about the traffic stop in this article are also incorrect. The agency will be releasing another statement at the conclusion of the investigation.
I guess we’ll stay tuned. Obviously if the original story in the Tampa Tribune is bogus then obviously all of this is moot.
Are automatic license plate readers in Maryland alerting police when registered gun owners drive past them?
Recently we posted a story about John Filippidas, the concealed carry permit holder from Florida who was stopped on I-95 by a Maryland Transportation Authority cop. The cop detained Filippidas and his family for nearly two hours while searching the family’s vehicle for the gun Filippidas legally owns. The gun was in a safe back in Florida. No ticket was issued.
The folks over at TheConservativeTreeHouse.com dug a little deeper into the Filippidas case.
Maryland State has a network of technical security databases which access the databases of all other states who comply and coordinate with them. For states who do not willfully comply, or those who are not set up to align technically, Maryland mines data from various LEO systems.
Maryland has a rather innocuous sounding name for the intelligence hub which contains this data, it’s called Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center.
The intelligence analysis hub has access to, and contains, Florida’s CCW list (among other identification systems) and mines the state’s database systems for vehicle plate numbers of the holders. These license plate numbers are then stored in a cross referencing database within the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center.
The database is directly connected to another Maryland technological system – Their ALPR (Automatic License Plate Reader) system is synergized with the MCAC Hub.
Every time one of the flagged license plates are detected by the ALPR an alert is generated.
Mr. Filippidis license plate was picked up at the Fort McHenry Tunnel on I-95 as he noted within the article. The Maryland Authority Police pursuit car was probably positioned a couple miles from the ALPR camera. The camera(s) located at the tunnel itself.
Once the pursuit car was alerted by the ALPR system the simple chase was on. As the Tampa Tribune indicated in the article, the patrol car came abreast of Filippidi; this was to allow the MTAP officer to visually confirm the driver ID from the high resolution photo from Filippidis driver’s license which was automatically on the officers on board computer screen.
Mr. Filippidis was identified by the database, his license plate cross referenced to his Florida CCW permit, an alert transmitted to the patrolling Maryland officer, and the rest is outlined in the article.
TheConservativeTreeHouse.com has submitted multiple public records requests to fill in more details about the incident.
I’m not going to categorically condemn the use of license plate readers. I can see them being enormously beneficial in many situations–locating stolen vehicles, locating people with active arrest warrants, Amber Alerts, etc.
However, what happened in this case is looking more and more like an abuse of power. Fillipidas was not breaking any laws. His only offense was being legally permitted to carry a firearm in the state of Florida. That alone appears to be why he was stopped and harassed by Maryland Transportation Authority Police. The officer(s) who participated in the unjustified stop of Mr. Fillipidas and his family should be disciplined or fired. Hopefully the state will not attempt to thwart the public records requests and more of the real story will be exposed. So far the actions of the police in this matter seem completely unacceptable.