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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

Automatic License Plate Reader

“10-86 this is Dispatch. Where are you?”

"We are working the once per year Code 18 in West Brattleboro across from Gilles Seafood Restaurant. We have two unmarked vehicles parked nose to nose in the center lane with a police cruiser behind each vehicle with lights flashing. When passing traffic slows down to rubber neck at the phony accident scene we look at their inspection sticker, license plate registration sticker, and seat belts. If we see an infraction we ticket them. We are also testing our new ALPR toys compliments of Homeland Security.”

“How is the automatic license plate reader working?”

“The L-3 Mobile Vision is terrific. We can download over one-thousand license plates an hour into the town database recording names and addresses while instantly checking for outstanding wants and warrants. The only unexpected problem I’ve encountered so far with the ALPR system is mud.”


“Yeah, mud. Unfortunately, the infrared license reader can’t see through dirt to read the plate number.”

“So if someone drives to a protest rally and doesn’t want their name in the BPDD (Brattleboro Police Demonstrator Database) they can neuter the ALPR by smearing a little wet aggregate on the license plate that will flummox twenty-thousand dollars of digital spying technology?”

“Yes, but aside from that minor glitch there is something very advantageous to the ALPR technology that no one has considered.”

“And what is that?”

“Last Sunday morning I drove my cruiser through every church parking lot in Brattleboro to download vehicle plates into the BPRD (Brattleboro Police Religious Database). Next week I’ll be driving around the entire Brattleboro Memorial Hospital parking lot recording names into the BPUD (Brattleboro Police Unhealthy Database) without violating any HIPPA regulations.”


“You do know how the Town of Brattleboro is always hurting for revenue because neither the Selectboard, nor the School Board, nor Representative Town Meeting can control their spending?”

“You sound like a legislator in Montpelier. Get to the point.”

“It’s called the law of unintended consequences. The ALPR system didn’t cost the Town anything because it was paid for by the Feds. The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled there is no expectation of privacy when you are out in public. Do you realize how much intrinsic financial marketing value resides in the ALPR database that we are collecting on a daily basis?”


“I’ll give you some examples. Every Friday at 4PM a cruiser swings around the Hannaford’s parking lot recording all of the license plates in less than sixty seconds. Price Chopper would be delighted to pay the Town of Brattleboro for a list of Hannaford’s customers they can specifically target for promotions by mail. Don’t you think the banks in Brattleboro would pay to know which residents in town are parked in their competitor’s lots? Insurance companies would love to know the names of the BUHS students who have vehicles on school grounds. Divorce lawyers would happily remit money to the police department to track the whereabouts of their clients cheating spouses. Every July 4th we can set up one ALPR at Exit 1 and one at Exit 2, slice and dice the data by state, and sell the list to the Chamber of Commerce for detail marketing. Even the Vermont Department of Taxes will pay for our ALPR database services.”

“How so?”

“We’ll send one of our ALPR cruiser’s over to Hinsdale and do a fast drive around the Walmart parking lot. The Vermont Department of Taxes will be more than willing to reimburse Brattleboro for a detail list of names and addresses of locals to audit for not paying sales taxes. At any given time, at any given place, we now have the technology to determine who and where individuals in Brattleboro are, sorted by any demographics the buyer of our data wants. This ALPR system can be transformed into one great source of new revenue for the Selectboard to recklessly spend or borrow against by selling public information configured to a buyer’s specific data needs. This is a slam dunk!”

“But I see a downside.”

“What is that?”

“What if some nefarious individual hacks into the ALPR database and configures the info to determine who and when someone is not at home with the intent to commit a burglary?”

“Find something else to worry about. That’s what homeowner’s insurance is for. You have to look at the big picture. The priority right now is to generate more money for the Selectboard to spend-spend-spend-spend-spend. That is the ONLY thing they care about. It will be interesting to see if any of the candidates for the Selectboard take a position on this.”

“I doubt it. On this issue they will waffle more than an IHOP.”

“Wait a minute! Hold on! The ALPR just made a hit. We’ve got a 10-107.”

“What did he do?”

“He has an outstanding Brattleboro parking ticket!”

“Do you want to initiate a stop?”

“No, the driver looks really suspicious to me. He could be a BM (Brattleboro Malcontent). I need your help to initiate a full search of his background.”

“Be careful. An overdue parking ticket is flimsy protocol for establishing probable cause.”

“When the issue is investigating someone who has the potential to do bad things, don’t worry about probable cause. It’s a legal concept that doesn’t exist anymore.”

“Since when?”

“Since February when the US Justice Department issued a fourteen page white paper that gave POTUS the authority to
assassinate American citizens by drone deemed to be a danger to the United States. Two-hundred and thirty-seven years of Probable Cause was instantly transformed into Probable Because.”

“Do you have a Stinger 2 in your cruiser?”

“Yes, but it’s an archaic way to triangulate a cell phone for tracking purposes. On the roof of the suspect’s vehicle is a flat black antenna for Sirius Satellite. I’ve got his VIN from DMV. Call Sirius, tell them it’s a police emergency, and have them give you the eight digit Sirius code for that specific VIN. Run the license plate through our ALPR database. Slice and dice the data. How many times has this particular vehicle traveled through West Brattleboro?”

“Fourteen times in the past week - and he does not live in that section of town.”

“Not good!”

“Do you want me to pull up his Facebook account?”

"Absolutely not! That’s an invasion of privacy.”

“I’ve got the Sirius code. His Verizon cell phone is synced into his vehicle’s Sirius. Do you want me to download all of his text messages?”

“Yes, but only for the last three years.”

“He is currently listening to Station 2, the Top 20.”

“What song?”

“Carrie Underwood’s new hit called Blown Away.”

“That establishes Probable Because! I’m rolling. No lights. No siren. If you have his Sirius Radio ID then you have his GPS signal. Where is he headed?”

“He just passed by Citizens Bridge…..is taking a left onto I-91 south…..is exiting off at 1 and taking a left onto Canal Street….. is stopped at the first traffic light on Canal….. and taking a right onto Fairground…..and now a left into Walgreen’s.”

“Can you tap into Walgreen’s security cameras?”


“Inside and outside?”

“Yes. After spending millions of borrowed dollars for a new high tech police station we now have the capability to tap into anyone’s private security system in town.”

“Relay the camera feed to my laptop in the cruiser. What is he doing right now?”

“It appears that he is throwing away an empty plastic bottle into the waste can adjacent to the front door.”

“He must be a Republican who buys his beverages in New Hampshire to avoid the bottle deposit tax. I just received your feed. He is walking down an aisle – I can’t tell which one. The resolution is lousy. Can you capture the register?”

“Got it. The POS is on a wireless network. He is paying cash.”

“This ALPR hit is coming together – he doesn’t want a debit or credit card record of what he is purchasing because he is hiding something. What is he procuring?”

“The sales receipt is coming through now. He bought a gift box of chocolates and some condoms.”

“He is cheating on his wife.”

“How do you know that?”

“Twenty-four hours after a wedding ceremony sex with your spouse is over and done with. That’s why the divorce rate in Brattleboro is so high. We’ve got his home address. Can you Google an aerial view of his property?”

“Got it.”

“Who lives with him?”

“His wife, two kids, and a crazy old uncle.”

“How do you know that?”

“From their confidential 2010 census reply.”

“How do you know the old uncle is crazy?”

“We have his arrest record on file.”

“What did he do?”

“According to our BBBD (Brattleboro Badly Behaved Database) he could not afford the cost of hospital radiation treatments for his prostate cancer. A neighbor called the Brattleboro Police when they saw the old man sitting naked straddling the new Smart Meter on the house.”

“Did it work?”

“Yeah, I’m looking at his electronic medical records. His doctors are so impressed at his recovery they are now recommending that all of their cancer patients get Smart Meters.”

“Pull up the Smart Meter communications on the Green Mountain Power website. Access their account. What is going on in the house right now?”

“The two kids are watching television and the wife is cooking dinner.”

“Is she using the microwave or the oven?”

“According to the Smart Meter she is using the oven.”

“They must be wealthy. Rich people use ovens. Poor people use microwaves.”

“How do you know that?”

“ A Bernie Sanders speech.”

"Wow, this is weird.”

“What is weird?”

“I just accessed their Facebook Account.”

“I told you not to do that!”

“Sorry, I couldn’t resist.”

“What is weird?”

“There is a picture of all five family members standing outside the front of their house holding croquet mallets straight up in the air. Underneath the picture it says – With Mallets Toward None. Are they referring to ducks? I don’t get it.”

“Don’t worry about it. We’ll let the detectives figure it out.”

“What else does the Google aerial view show?”

“They have Direct TV satellite.”

“Good. Direct TV requires a phone line. Download from their master control box what the parents are watching from 9PM to 11PM.”

“It appears they are addicted to that reality show in Detroit called Hardcore Pawn.”

“They must be preparing themselves to own a retail store on Flat Street near the parking garage. Are they on a septic system?”

“How should I know?”

“Log into the Town Lister’s database and pull up their detail property records.”

“Got it. Yes, in fact it’s a Wisconsin Mound System that requires a telephone line to notify the installer if the sewage pump fails.”

“Look at the septic system phone records. Has the septic system recently called anyone?”

“Yeah, the septic system called Direct TV. Their content must be directly related to each other.”

“We may have a bigger problem.”

“What is that?”

“I just accessed their permit records from the Town Planning Office. Last year they were issued a certificate to foam insulate their entire house.”

“Why is that a problem?”

“The BPSD (Brattleboro Police Surveillance Drone) uses infrared heat mapping to detect the movement of residents inside their homes to monitor everything they are doing. The real reason these wrongdoers foamed their house is to preclude our drone from spying on them under the guise of energy conservation.”

“You know, as a law enforcement officer I have to admit I am madly in love with the town’s ALPR system.”

“Why is that?”

“When you stop and think about it, aside from the income revenue stream the license plate reader generates for the town,
it also transforms every vehicle in Brattleboro into a potential Bait Car scenario.”

“Hey, that just might make a great reality show on BCTV.”

“And compete with Selectboard meetings? It will never happen.”



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probable because

Gosh, RL, I thought you specialized in fiction.


Sad But True

Very sad.


Says the recent Vermont Commons story: "What does Vermont have in common with small countries invaded by the US? Unmanned drones. Millions of dollars worth, keeping crops, people, backyards and homes under surveillance. Drones like the ones in these pictures have been seen flying over Vermont. "


iBrattleboro Poll

Which should Brattleboro have?