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LA City Council considers using license plate scanners to shame people driving through “prostitution areas”

Though promising as a crime-fighting tool (albeit with several privacy concerns), license plate scanners could soon be utilized by the state to deter prostitution — in a totally creepy and intrusive manner.

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Nury Martinez recently put forward a proposal which entails setting up cameras in places frequented by prostitutes, in hopes of scanning the license plates of every person who drives through the area. The goal, according to Martinez, is to develop a mailing list of everyone who has driven through these “shady” neighborhoods. “Shame letters” would then be sent out to the homes of men suspected of soliciting the services of prostitutes.

Martinez told CBS, “If you aren’t soliciting, you have no reason to worry about finding one of these letters in your mailbox. But if you are, these letters will discourage you from returning. Soliciting for sex in our neighborhoods is not OK.”

This proposal is definitely worrisome, however. The system proposed by Martinez has no way of discriminating between men who actually are soliciting the services of prostitutes and those who have legitimate reasons for driving through suspected neighborhoods. What if a spouse or girlfriend reads one of the shame letters sent to an innocent passerby? Also, how would this affect the commerce of the neighborhoods tagged to be “areas frequented by prostitutes”?

Indeed, while Martinez (ostensibly) has only good intentions behind her suggestion, the proposal has the makings of a totalitarian state. If prostitution and exploitation are the underlying concerns, then surely, the state could find better, less intrusive means of solving the problem.


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