“How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon.” - Dr. Seuss
By Chason Gordon
- The Capitol Hill Times -
Sometimes I think about getting a vanity license plate, like BIGPOPA or CHT4EVR or SHITS-GETTING-REAL-SON (I would need several cars for that one). It’s like a tattoo for your car, and is a wonderful way to express yourself in government metal form. What holds me back is that if I ever decide to commit a crime, having a vanity plate would make it far easier for someone to report my car. A5N2P4F is much harder to remember than MRTRULZ. Criminals like me need to disappear in case we feel the heat around the corner.
Of course, these days it doesn’t really matter what your license number says, because chances are it’s been photographed (see what I did there?). The Seattle Police Department, like many departments across the county, has been using cameras to instantly check license plates for stolen cars and parking scofflaws (if you have a lot of tickets and your car is stolen, just claim that the car thief committed all of the parking infractions). Last year, those blabbermouth cameras collected about 7 million license-plate records, discovering 426 stolen cars and 3,768 vehicles with multiple parking tickets. The records are then retained by police agencies for several months. I know, this is reminding you of Orwell, specifically “Down and Out in Paris and London.” That’s a good book! Though, the Paris section is better.
In the old days, police would see the license plate of a suspicious-looking car that they happened to be following, and call it in, saying something like, “Hey Barb, I need you to check a plate for me. It’s S5F3PN1. Yeah, I’ll wait. How are the kids doing? Billy’s good? That’s great. No, no, PN1. 1. P… N… 1. There you go.” But today, enforcement vehicles can simply troll around the neighborhood scanning thousands of cars a week. Where’s the art of the chase, the thrill of the hunt? And was Billy actually doing well? Because I heard things.
This is clearly a privacy issue, like most things (except candy). By storing the data of thousands of drivers, police may have access to the movements of citizens, even if they’ve done nothing wrong. In my particular case, that could be embarrassing. Anyone with access to my records would be able to see that in one day, I went to 7/11, then to a video store, then back to 7/11, then Arby’s, then back to 7/11, and so on. I don’t want people finding out that stuff. I don’t want people knowing how often I park in front of my old high school and cry. That’s personal. And what about all those people secretly running around on their spouses? They need protection too.
The scariest thing about all of this is that prisoners make license plates. Did you know that? Can you imagine being a prisoner and making a vanity license plate that said FREEDOM? That would be awful.
Look, I know that people are worried about this, but there are several ways to fight back. If you’ve seen “The Day of the Jackal,” or the bad remake “The Jackal,” you know that the best way to get around undetected is to switch cars every few hours, or quickly repaint them in an underground garage. That’s what I do. You could also keep several license plates in your car, or buy one of those cars that switches license plates when you press a button, all of which are things that I’ve seen in movies, which I confuse for reality.
You know who’s unaffected by this? Cyclists. Right now they can roam around without being tracked, able to commit any number of indecent acts. That’s completely unfair. Cyclists should be forced to put little license plates on their helmets or the back of their seats so that they, too, can be tracked. If the cops get to know that I circled my gym eight times without getting out of the car, they should also know that a cyclist went to a smoothie shop or whatever it is that they do.
Yes, we live in dangerous times, my friends. They’ve got our emails, our phone calls, our fingerprints and our license plates, but do you know what they can’t take? Do you know what they’ll never be able to track? I don’t know, actually. Maybe love. Let’s just say love. Love!