Bloomington Police Spying on Shoppers at Mall of America

The Mall of America is one of those places I try to avoid like the plague. I don’t like shopping in meatspace on the best of days so throwing me into a vast complex of clothing stores is basically torture. Combine that with mall security that does its best to make mall ninjutsu a real thing and you get a recipe for bad times. Now I have another reason to avoid that hellhole, the Bloomington police are spying on everybody who shops there:

License plate readers are cameras that capture your license plate information just driving by. They record the plate number, the date, time and location of your vehicle. The information is then checked against a “hot list,” which includes license plates of people suspected of various crimes.

At the meeting, law enforcement officials from St. Paul, Duluth, Mendota Heights and Ramsey County all said the technology has helped them solve crimes.

You can add Bloomington to the list too. In their case, they have an agreement with Mall of America. According to Bloomington Police Chief Jeff Potts, the mall is allowed to access the data, although they have yet to do so.

“It’s solely for the purposes of safety, security and traffic management. Not marketing, not other things that were discussed here just a few minutes ago,” Potts explained. “We’re just using these cameras to try to keep the mall safe. The scans, the license plates that we read, are bounced against a database of known vehicles that are either stolen, wanted persons, people with warrants.”

I like how the Mr. Potts first says that the scanners are meant to keep the mall safe and immediately admits that the scanned license plates are being bounced off of a database of wanted persons. Which of the following scenarios is likely to be safer? An individual with a warrant out for his arrest goes to the Mall of America and while there buys (or even steals) a shirt and grabs some lunch or an individual with a warrant out for his arrest goes tot he Mall of American and his license plate informs the Bloomington Police Department to gear up, head to the mall, and have a wild shootout with the suspect. I’m much rather see the latter since modern policing seems to be entirely unconcerned with innocent bystanders.

As the article says, license plates scanners are used throughout Minnesota to violate what little privacy we still have. Because of this it’s difficult to avoid a place simply because you don’t want some nosy police officer stalking you via their license plate scanners. But when a place I already don’t like to go to admits to using these devices it just gives me more reason to avoid it.