N.C. ACLU Questions Police Use of License Plate Readers

From The Charlotte Observer, July 30, 2012

The American Civil Liberties Union in North Carolina has joined 37 other states in requesting information from law enforcement agencies on how they use automatic license plate readers to track and record people’s movements.

The ACLU in North Carolina said it made the request of 61 agencies, including the Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Huntersville police departments, and 10 other law enforcement agencies in the Charlotte region.

In addition, the national ACLU and its Massachusetts affiliate filed Freedom of Information Act requests to learn how the federal government funds the license plate reader expansion nationwide. The ACLU also asked the government how it uses the technology.

The automatic license plate readers are cameras, mounted on telephone poles and bridge supports, that snap a photo of every license plate that enters their field of view. In most cases, the photo includes a time and date, and the photos are added to a data base.

That information then provides a match for police officers who might be looking for specific license plate numbers.

In addition to CMPD and Huntersville police, the ACLU is also asking for the information from the Gastonia and Hickory police departments, and from sheriff’s offices in Anson, Avery, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Gaston, Stanly and Union counties.

Catherine Crump, an attorney with the national ACLU organization, says the question is how government agencies are using that information.

“The American people have a right to know whether our police departments are using these tools in a limited and responsible manner, or whether they are keeping records of our movements for months or years, for no good reason,” Crump said.

“The ability to track and record people’s movements presents a clear risk to privacy rights,” added Chris Brook, legal director of the ACLU North Carolina Legal Foundation. “Without proper safeguards, this technology could all too easily lead to profiling, or the routine tracking of innocent people who have done nothing wrong.”

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officials told city council in May that they are installing about three dozen of the cameras at intersections, using a $1 million federal grant.

CMPD officials say the cameras are being used for public safety purposes, not to compile information about people’s habits. CMPD says the data is useful, for example, in finding stolen vehicles.

According to CMPD’s standard operating procedures for the license plate readers, the information gathered by the cameras is kept for 18 months and then purged automatically.

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Published in: on July 31, 2012 at 5:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Armed Mother Defends Home From Invaders

From The Rock Hill Herald by Jonathan McFadden, July 31, 2012

ROCK HILL — Police say a gun-wielding Rock Hill mother faced off with three gunmen who broke into her home Monday night apparently looking for her son.

The 46-year-old woman told police she was at her Midvale Avenue home when she heard a knock at the door. The person on the other side didn’t answer after she asked who it was several times, according to a Rock Hill police report.

The woman said the knocking continued and, as she went in her kitchen, her back door flew open and a man armed with a gun walked into her house, the report states. Another man with a gun entered through her unlocked front door while a third man with a gun stood in her yard.

The men showed the woman a badge, claiming to work for a North Carolina bail bonds company that’s looking for her son. The mother told police the men kept saying, “he’s here, we know he’s here.”

The mother told police she then pulled a gun on the men and ordered them to leave. The intruders told her to put the gun down, but they then left her house in a Red Dodge truck with a North Carolina tag.

The mother told police that she wasn’t sure if her son was home but she did find an iPod on her kitchen counter that displayed his Facebook page. A bowl of cereal sat next to it.

Police were unable to find the woman’s son or the intruders. Neighbors told police that the men were “unprofessional,” the report states, and pointed guns “all over the place.”

Published in: on July 31, 2012 at 5:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

5 Arrested in Connection with Large Burglary Ring Active in Charlotte

From The Associated Press via http://www.wcnc.com, July 31, 2012

STATESVILLE, N.C. — Law enforcement officers from at least eight counties in piedmont North Carolina say they have arrested five people in connection with a burglary ring that extended from the state’s northern border to the South Carolina line.

The Charlotte Observer reports that investigators believe the ring was responsible for at least 40 burglaries in eight counties, stretching from near the Virginia border southward. A number of the burglaries occurred in the Charlotte area, and it’s believed there was at least one car theft.

The arrests followed an investigation in Iredell and Rowan counties. Search warrants led to stolen items in Statesville, where investigators said they found more than $20,000 worth of televisions, jewelry, computers, antiques, coins, firearms and more at a motel and a storage facility.

Published in: on July 31, 2012 at 5:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

FBI Seeking Public’s Help in Finding Bank Robbery Suspect

From The Charlotte Observer by Meghan Cooke, July 31, 2012

Authorities are asking for the public’s help to identify a man who robbed a northern Charlotte bank Monday afternoon.

Around 1:45 p.m. Monday, the suspect entered the BB&T branch on West Arbors Drive, just off West Mallard Creek Church Road between Interstate 85 and Mallard Creek Road. He didn’t show a weapon, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Surveillance photos released by the FBI show the man reaching over the teller’s counter with his hands apparently in a bag. Another shows him leaving the bank with the bag in hand.

The FBI said the suspect was described as a bald black man who wore dark pants and a black and white plaid collared shirt.

Anyone with information about the suspect is asked to call Charlotte-Mecklenburg Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600 or FBI Charlotte at 704-672-6100.

Published in: on July 31, 2012 at 5:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

$10,000 Reward Offered in Robbery, Killing in Uptown Charlotte’s Belmont Neighborhood

From The Charlotte Observer by Meghan Cooke, July 31, 2012

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police say a cash reward of up to $10,000 is available for information leading to the arrest of Matthew Hawkins’ killer.

On the afternoon of July 10, Hawkins was shot in the head during a robbery while he was renovating a home on East 17th Street in Charlotte’s Belmont neighborhood. The 39-year-old died two days later.

His girlfriend, who was with him at the Belmont home, has said the robbery was a blur but described the suspect as a slender, 18 to 25-year-old, dark-skinned black man. He may have had his face obscured with a hat or something else covering his face, she said.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Crime Stoppers had offered a $5,000 reward, but on Tuesday, police announced that the private security firm Treadstone Group will offer an additional $5,000 reward.

Treadstone Group’s president, Ross Bulla, graduated from UNC Charlotte with degrees in criminal justice and psychology. Police said he is a friend of Hawkins’ family.

Anyone with information about the killing is asked to call the Crime Stoppers tip line at 704-334-1600. Callers can remain anonymous.

Published in: on July 31, 2012 at 5:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Watauga County Deputy’s Death Resonates with Mecklenburg Deputies

From http://www.wbtv.com By Dedrick Russell, July 27, 2012

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) – Deputies from Mecklenburg county are thinking about the loss of Watauga County Deputy Sheriff William Mast, Jr.

He died early Thursday morning in the line of duty while answering a 911 call.

“You just think – that could have been me,” Mecklenburg County Deputy Sheriff Antonio Monroe said. “I do the same thing, but it also keeps you from getting lax and you do always have to stay alert – always because no day is the same ever.”

Monroe is on the Domestic Violence Unit in Mecklenburg County. He serves warrants. He knows his job is dangerous because he never knows what he will confront when going from place to place looking for people.

“It’s not if it will happen,” Monroe said. “When you are dealing in law enforcement – it’s when.”

Mast’s death has Monroe keeping his safety training in mind. It takes about 12 weeks to work in the domestic violence unit in the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s office.

He remembers to stay observant when doing his job.

“While he has the door opened,” Monroe said. “I’m looking inside the residence looking at them.”

And he remembers to tell the dispatcher his location.

“Your help has to know exactly where you at,” Monroe said. “So they can come assist you.”

Monroe says Mast’s death was an eye opener.

Monroe claims some Mecklenburg county sheriff’s deputies will attend Mast’s funeral for support.

Published in: on July 27, 2012 at 4:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

SCP Responds to Suspicious Vehicle Report Involving Possible Breaking and Entering

Report by Brian Lutes, July 23, 2012

The Stonehaven Community Patrol responded to a report of a suspicious vehicle possibly involved in a residential breaking & entering on Monday, July 23, 2012 at approximately 8:15 PM in the 7000 block of Rocky Falls Rd.

A resident of Rocky Falls Rd. reported that a silver pick-up truck was stopped outside of a residence in the cul-de-sac at the end of the road and that a hispanic male was loading items, including a gas grill, from the yard of the home into the bed of the truck. The reporting resident said that they didn’t know if the home’s resident was at home, but that they didn’t recognize the vehicle or its driver.

Upon arriving in the 7000 block of Rocky Falls Rd. the SCP observed the vehicle described by the reporting resident, the vehicle was being driven by a Hispanic male, and that there was a gas grill among other large items in the bed of the truck. These circumstances matched exactly what had been said by the reporting resident.

As the vehicle was approached by the SCP it began to leave the area and was detained as Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officers were notified of the situation and requested to respond to the scene.

Through the course of the investigation it was found that the vehicle’s driver did not possess a driver’s license of any kind, but owned the vehicle, and the only identification he could provide was a passport issued by the government of Mexico. The picture in the passport was the individual operating the truck and the name on the vehicle’s registration information matched the name that was listed in the passport.

Upon the arrival of CMPD Officers, the SCP was able to leave the individual and make contact with the resident of the home from where the grill was taken; the resident reported that they had given the driver of the pick up truck permission to take the grill as they had intended to have it hauled it away as trash.

Upon finding that the driver of the pick up legally possessed the items in the bed of the truck he had to deal with not having a driver’s license with the CMPD Officers.

 

 

Published in: on July 24, 2012 at 11:21 am  Leave a Comment  

CMPD Officers Seize Gun in Teen Slaying Investigation

From www.wsoctv.com, July 24, 2012

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police have seized a weapon that is the same type of gun they said was used to kill a 17-year-old girl in north Charlotte.
According to search warrants, the man who found the body of Hawa Gabiddon, in Elder Park, also told police that he has a .22-caliber rifle at his home.

A medical examiner said that is the same caliber of bullet that killed Gabiddon.

The man told police he took $5 from the victim’s purse, police said.

The man has not been charged and police have not named him as a suspect.

Police later determined that Gabiddon was pregnant when she was killed.

Published in: on July 24, 2012 at 10:31 am  Leave a Comment  

Federal Authorities Charge 3 Men in Charlotte Robberies

From The Charlotte Observer by Steve Lyttle, July 24, 2012

Federal prosecutors say they have added bank robbery charges against a Charlotte teen already accused in a string of robberies, including one in which the man allegedly held a gun to an employee’s head and pulled the trigger twice.

Three men, in all, were charged by the U.S. Attorney’s office in the April 13 robbery of the PNC Bank on East Boulevard in the Dilworth area.

One of them was Tony Humphrey, 18, who already had been arrested and charged by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police in connection with a string of four robberies in a two-week period.

The federal government has charged Tony Humphrey, 18, of Charlotte, in connection with the April 13 robbery of a PNC Bank in Charlotte. Police allege Humphrey also was behind four April robberies in Charlotte, including one in which he allegedly pointed a gun at a restaurant employee’s head and pulled the trigger twice. The gun did not go off.

Also charged by the federal government in the PNC case were Sadiq White, 26, and Adonte Young, 26. Each man is from Charlotte.

Sadiq White, 26, of Charlotte, has been charged by federal authorities in connection with the April 13 robbery of a PNC Bank on East Boulevard. Investigators allege White drove a getaway car after the robbery.

Adonte Young, 26, of Charlotte, has been charged in connection with the April 13 robbery of a PNC Bank in Charlotte. Prosecutors allege Young fired his handgun twice while fleeing from the bank.

According to a federal indictment, Humphrey and Young entered the bank with handguns and demanded money. Prosecutors allege that Young fired his gun twice while leaving, but there were no injuries.

Federal prosecutors say Humphrey and Young fled in a stolen car, which they abandoned and then were driven in a different vehicle by White. Investigators also say White drove Young to the PNC Bank on the day before the robbery, for reconnaissance purposes.

The federal government’s indictment says authorities recovered the stolen getaway car and a disguise worn by Young.

The three men were charged with bank robbery, armed bank robbery, and possession of a firearm in connection with a bank robbery, in addition to several other charges.

Humphrey earlier was charged with robbing a Regional Finance office April 3 on North Tryon Street; a Sonic restaurant on April 6 on Forest Point Boulevard; Crown Auto Sales and Finance on April 14 on Orr Road; and another Regional Finance office April 16 on East Independence Boulevard;

Authorities have charged a 24-year-old Charlotte man, Corey Miller, with being an accomplice of Humphrey in the April 6 and 14 robberies.

During the Sonic robbery, police allege Humphrey held his gun against the head of an employee and pulled the trigger twice. The gun did not fire either time.

Authorities say the three men charged in the PNC Bank case are in federal custody.

Published in: on July 24, 2012 at 10:25 am  Leave a Comment  

Mecklenburg County Adds High-Tech Tool to Find Tax Delinquents

From The Charlotte Observer, July 16, 2012 by Carmen Cusido

Mecklenburg County is turning to a new tool to catch vehicle tax delinquents: cameras that detect license plates of vehicles parked in lots and decks across the county.

Two sheriff’s office vehicles have been equipped with cameras and software designed to read license plates and match them against a database of delinquent taxpayers.

When deputies spot a vehicle with unpaid taxes, they’ll put a fluorescent yellow sticker on the driver side window. Owners must pay delinquent taxes within two days or the vehicle could be seized.

A one-week test of the equipment in June got hits on 61 vehicles and 62 percent of those owners have already paid $5,576 in taxes and penalties, said Tax Collector Neal Dixon.

The database will begin with 75,000 plates and it is estimated that 10,000 vehicles will be added each month.

“We’re trying to improve the collection percentage for these taxes,” Dixon said. Typically, he said, 30 percent of monthly vehicle bills are delinquent.

By state law, a county tax collector’s office could take action from the first day a bill becomes delinquent. That could include garnishing paychecks and bank accounts, Dixon said.

Dixon said no special permission was needed to start the program because the state’s general statutes empower tax collectors “to utilize various remedies and methods to collect taxes.”

For the past two years or so, Durham County has also had a partnership between its tax collector and sheriff’s office.

Kimberly Simpson, the tax administrator for Durham County, said the collection rate for motor vehicle taxes was 87 or 88 percent. It is now at almost 91 percent, she said.

“Motor vehicle taxes have always been difficult to collect,” Simpson said. “You’re getting billed after the tag has been issued. There’s no real motivation for you to pay it. People tend to wait until after the taxes are delinquent and then right before they have to renew their tag.”

It cost Durham’s city and county governments $48,000 to implement their program, but Simpson said that money was replenished in back taxes after the first month and a half of the collection program.

Mecklenburg’s tax collector’s office updates its database of delinquent taxpayers three times a week. Vehicle information is added to the delinquent database once the due date has passed, and the county has sent a late notice and block notice – a total of five months after the initial due date.

The database is then sent to the laptops in the sheriff’s vehicles.

Dixon and Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Julia Rush said the software will not register any “hits” on vehicles without delinquent plates.

Nine deputies and two sergeants are trained to use the equipment. They drive the specially equipped vehicles anywhere cars are parked.

Rush said the county paid $35,000 for the software and the cameras using money from conceal-carry gun permit fees.

CMPD Cameras 

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has had some vehicles equipped with cameras for several years.

But unlike the sheriff’s office, police officers use theirs for criminal rather than civil enforcement, police spokesman Bob Fey said.

In upcoming weeks, CMPD will mount 95 cameras throughout the city using nearly $1.3 million in federal grants they’ve received, said Paul Paskoff, the department’s research and planning director.

The cameras will be placed on power poles and traffic signals, and will collect information like license plates, times and locations of vehicles. Paskoff said they’re looking for violations of criminal law – such as expired registrations, stolen vehicles, whether someone is wanted for a crime or whether they have a suspended driver’s license.

“This is a technology that helps catch criminals,” Paskoff said. The cameras, he said, “are a lot more effective in stationary positions rather than on a car that’s moving through the city. It’s automatic – it reads about 1,000 tags in a minute.”

CMPD will continue to use the cameras mounted on their police cars as well, Paskoff said.

A spokesman with the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina said the organization is not opposed to the technology in general, but remains concerned that the data could be retained for months. Carmen Cusido

 

Published in: on July 16, 2012 at 11:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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