Sandusky: To spy or not to spy

Some residents outraged; city commissioners talk about police cruiser cameras that feed data to federal government
Andy Ouriel
Jul 24, 2013

A Register story on Sunday reported the federal spying program's ties to the city. Through two cameras mounted on a Sandusky police cruiser's trunk, the device logs license plate numbers and transmits the data to an organization affiliated with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It has been in place since mid-November.

At a public meeting Monday, a contingent of local residents — led by city commissioner Diedre Cole — have harshly criticized use of the device.

Cole's comments centered on two points: The cameras are an invasion of privacy, and they provide no benefit to local residents or police officers.

"The public has a right to know that while you are sleeping, the police department is traversing the streets of Sandusky with a vehicle that captures your license plates and transmits that data to Homeland Security," Cole said. "Residents need to be made aware that this technology will allow a blueprint of your life to be accessed by officers scanning your license plate."

Sandusky police Chief John Orzech said the the device can might be useful to assist officers tracking down stolen vehicles.

Orzech said the data compiled from scanning license plates is indeed stored by Homeland Security, but he doesn't know how the data is used or maintained.

Among the other problems:

•The license late scanners haven't aided local officers in solving any crimes thus far. "We haven't really done anything with it," Orzech said. "It's really hit or miss."

•The devices don't perform certain functions that were promised.

Case in point: The devices don't connect to a state system that law enforcement officers use to look up crime and court records. The pitfalls of the technology actually convinced Erie County Sheriff Paul Sigsworth to remove four similar cameras that were previously placed on cruisers at his department.

The sheriff's employees removed the mounted cameras and asked federal officials to pick up the equipment about a year ago.

"They're still here, in the boxes, waiting to be picked up," Sigsworth said.

The American Civil Liberties Union was first to address this issue of the federal government funding license plate readers. In a report issued earlier this month, "You are being tracked," the civil rights group called it a dangerous trend in American cities. 

“More and more cameras, longer retention periods, and widespread sharing allow law enforcement agents to assemble the individual puzzle pieces of where we have been over time into a single, high-resolution image of our lives,” the report states. “The knowledge that one is subject to constant monitoring can chill the exercise of our cherished rights to free speech and association.”

On Monday, after reading the Register story, local residents showed up at City Hall to lambast the federal government's monitoring program and its implications locally, too. 

"I am one of the community members who feel uncomfortable with this," Mills Street resident Dan Leavell said. "I feel that law enforcement has plenty of tools in their arsenal in order to apprehend someone who is breaking the law. I see this as another step in the invasion of an individual's privacy."

Orzech said he will remove the cameras if people don't want them.

"If you want them off the car, we'll take them off," Orzech said. "It doesn't make a difference to me."

Count Fifth Street resident Sharon Johnson among the people demanding officials remove the cameras.

"If Erie County dismantled their readers, I don't see why Sandusky can't dismantle them too," Johnson said. "We are getting too complacent about our privacy."

Helpful or harmful?

Commissioner Keith Grohe spoke in favor of the cameras.

"If you have a (smartphone), that same information goes all over the place," Grohe said. "Also with Twitter, Facebook, where you shop if you have a debit or credit card. You have to admit that in today's world we are tracked all over the place."

Cole slammed Grohe's opinion.

"That's all by choice," Cole said. "Whether I have a smartphone or use my Kroger Card is my choice. Whether (police) use a car and scan my tag is not my choice."

Smith then argued with Cole, pointing out that license plates and the streets people drive on are public.

Cole quickly countered the point.

"My concern is what information is public," Cole said. "If you visit a particular doctor and then go to Sunday school and then a political rally at night and then visit a particular bank or mosque, all of those data points can be collected and assembled into a virtual blueprint of your life. 

"I would like to know if there is a way that we can reasonably come up with an analysis of how valuable this technology is to us," Cole said. 

City commissioner Wes Poole said he's not overly worried about the cameras, but he's concerned that city officials — namely city manager Nicole Ard — failed to inform him of what the cameras can do.

"I do have some concerns about staff presenting information to us," Poole said. "You left me with the impression you would be obtaining a tool that was going to be a value to the city. When you don't have the information and I have to make a decision, I must then live with the unintended consequences."

City commissioners said they'll continue to discuss the status of the cameras at upcoming public meetings.


Friendly chatter

The Register asked some of its Facebook friends for their opinions on the two cameras mounted on a Sandusky police cruiser. The cameras are capable of scanning a license plate number and sending information on a motorist's whereabouts to the federal government:

• Sandee Micheletti: Not a criminal, so it's fine by me.

• Janice Rogers Parker: I don't feel they should.

• Connie Slaughter: I don't think it's right. What is the reason for this? I'm not a criminal.

• Josephine Horne: I think it's wrong. Just like the government listening to our calls.

• Mike Lugtig: They already have our address. That's good enough. I mean, let's just line up so they can put a GPS in all of us.

• Andy Bauman: Criminal or not, you are entitled to a level of privacy inherent in the Fourth Amendment. This isn't a matter of whether you or I are criminals but that those in authoritative positions are unashamedly committing criminal acts.

• Chuck Miller: We no longer live in a free country. Canada here I come.

• DeeJay Graves: Complete invasion of privacy and overstepping of boundaries.

• Brandi Jurek: It's wrong.

• Kelly Groves Scott: Doesn't bother me even the teeniest, tiniest bit.

• Kari Miller: No. Only if they were on the lookout for a specific person should this be enabled. For example, searching for a runway or escaped (person). But once that technology is there, I'm sure the government would use it.

• Matt Keegan: What does the federal government need to know about my whereabouts for? Why are public servants paid by my tax dollars given the OK to do this? This is not OK.

• Jason Lutz: I got nothing to hide, but I still don't think ti's right that the government knows what I'm doing all the time. They should have better things to do than know I'm at Walmart and going to smash on some Red Lobster for dinner.

• Joe Artino: Doesn't matter. Look at Google Earth. You think that's the only satellite photos or videos being taken of us? I don't think so. So (the cameras on) the back of an SPD car is minor compared to what else is going on we don't even know about.

• Tim Smith: I love my country but fear my government.

• Kelly Netherland Gillespie: It shouldn't matter if you have anything to hide or not. IT is a totally unnecessary invasion of privacy, and it' sonly going to get worse. Did we forget they are public officials meant to serve the public? Why are we so willing to give up our liberties?


I live here too's picture
I live here too

Actually, they can arrest anyone for any reason and hold them indefinitely without charge forever if they so choose. It doesn't violate any laws either. Hooray for unconstitutional laws!


What defines terrorists and criminals? I post negative things about the government as well as you. Are we enemies of the State? With the damn Patriot Act by Bush and Obama's extension of it and his executive orders we all can be deemed enemies of the State and be detained indefinitely and without trial. The Constitution is being eroded daily by both parties who neither represent us and definitely are not acting in our best interests.


@ Fromthe419

Go back to sleep.


You are an idiot, I try to add to something what you say and debate and all you ever do is attack the message. From now on when I see you commenting I'll stay away, you are a f'ing douche.

Darwin's choice

No, not douche, he is an azzhat.


I've got another picture of you Darwin's reject.

Darwin's choice

MRI of whats in your head? Chit for brains!


That was my second choice for you.


@ Fromthe419

Believe me, it took at least 6 changes to tone down what I had originally wrote.
Ok, I will answer you in my way :
What defines terrorists and criminals?
.............................................What the hell is the matter with you , don't you know the difference ???!!!

I post negative things about the government as well as you.
..............................................I talk about the dumb Republicans , you talk against the President , right?

Are we enemies of the State?
................................................Maybe you are.

With the damn Patriot Act by Bush and Obama's extension of it and his executive orders we all can be deemed enemies of the State and be detained indefinitely and without trial.
................................... The Patriot Act has foiled terrorist attacks and have saved American lives.

The Constitution is being eroded daily by both parties who neither represent us and definitely are not acting in our best interests.
......................................Then WHO IS ACTING IN OUR BEST INTERESTS ???!!!

There's something wrong with you !!!
There is no debating with a person who says such idiotic things.


Go back to sleep


I have little to no patience with frightened little idiots like you.


No, you're not an "enemy of the state." According to the Department of Homeland Security, you ARE, however, a domestic terrorist suspect. According to the feds, the hallmarks of a domestic terrorist (or potential domestic terrorist) include

• Criticism of the government
• Being religious
• Quoting, or honoring, the Constitution
• Military veteran
• Having a "Ron Paul" or similar bumper sticker (no kidding, that's a real published criteria)

There are, of course, more "signs" that you are a potential domestic terrorist, but it seems to me that those things alone are enough to scare the crap out of anybody who's paying any attention at all!


Don't I want to be protected from terrorists and criminals? Not if it costs me my freedom, no.

If all you want is to be protected and cared for by somebody else, let's go back to the days of slavery. Slaves got free medical care, free food, free clothes, free job training, a free roof over their heads... But what WASN'T free? THEY weren't.

So thanks, but no thanks.


"Don't I want to be protected from terrorists and criminals? Not if it costs me my freedom, no."

.................What freedoms have you lost?
You still have the freedom to make pretty dumb statements for one.

I've got an idea.
Let's get rid of police departments , THEN I want to hear your noble - sounding little speech.


You suggesting I'd support getting rid of all police departments is no different than me suggesting you'd truly prefer slavery. Both are exaggerations (at least I HOPE both are!).

I support law enforcement. I also support CONTROLS on law enforcement. Or along with getting rid of police departments, do you suppose we get rid of the Constitution, too?

As for what I've lost: The First Amendment has seen substantial curbs on it thanks to political correctness, "hate" crimes, Obamacare's forced birth control/abortifacients coverage, gay marriage, and the like. The Second Amendment? Don't even GO there. The Third Amendment? There's a case out west right now involving homeowners FORCED to open their home as a staging grounds for a SWAT team. The Fourth Amendment? Do you READ the news? The Fifth Amendment? Eminent domain misuse is rampant; the seizure of cash by law enforcement, even from those who are innocent, is endemic. The Sixth? Given the media's (and the mob's) bent toward convicting people before the trial (and insisting they be convicted even when the trial ends in an acquittal), the Sixth is on thin ice! The Seventh seems safe for now, but the Eighth has been seriously eroded thanks to over-the-top awards for punitive damages. The Tenth? WHAT Tenth?

How much more do you need before you see that the last 75 years or so has seen dramatic curbs on unalienable rights. (You know, the ones you were BORN with? That government is PROHIBITED from infringing?).

P.S. Might as well get rid of police departments, at least in some places. Did you hear on the news yesterday that the average response time to a 9-1-1 call in Detroit is 58 minutes? Have you read the reports of busy signals when you call 9-1-1 in LA? Delays in response time in NYC and DC? We're on our own anyway. The police are just the "lucky" guys who all too often get to clean up the mess. That's not THEIR fault. It's all too often OURS for failing to take precautions — and some personal responsibility — of our own.

The Big Dog's back

Step away from the computer sam.


Sham Adams--

Did you read a lot of "super hero" comic books as a kid , or recently?

(USA PATRIOT) stands for Uniting (and) Strengthening America (by) Providing Appropriate Tools Required (to) Intercept (and) Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001.


I had hoped that when Obama was elected, he'd repeal the Patriot Act, as he stated he would. He was all about limiting its reach, and wanted to require warrants for cellphone tapping, not just landlines. What happened? He definitely let me down on that one.

The Big Dog's back

Everything has to go thru the FISA court.


AKA rubber stamp


Sam is awesome at making dumb posts!


You ain't kidding.
I've just recently started reading his/her comments after he/she gave me some dumb crap.


Our government is trampeling and pissing on the constitution and amendments that were put in place to protect our freedoms and rights that made this country unique and we are living in a police state which is slowly invading on our liberties and freedoms. The government wants us to live in fear terror so that we will sacrifice our liberties for safety. I feel safe and am plenty capable of thinking and protecting myself. I don't want to lose anymore rights or freedoms to this corrupt artificial democracy that is destroying our economy, workforce, and middle class across this great land...


The blind leading the blind or the dumb leading the Sumner?


Dumb leading the dumber


Stupid auto correct


Sorry, but I don't get all the uproar. How is taking a picture of your license plate while you are in public an invasion of privacy? I can stand on a street corner and take picture of license plates all day long. How can you stop me, or the government from doing that? And someone needs to give me a "for instance" as to how this could be mis used. I'm open to changing my mind!


they get this and this you dont care well wait till they do something you do care about then it is to late the more control and power they have the more they will take then it is tooooooo late dont let them start FOOL


Are we going to make it illegal for anyone to photograph a license plate, or just the government? Of course they can take pictures of license plates!


You're right. You COULD take pics all day long. And you know what? I don't know that I'd care all that much if you did!

The issue here is really two-fold: First, the GOVERNMENT is engaging in surveillance — effectively searches — without a warrant, which it is prohibited from doing by the Fourth Amendment (bone up on your American History if you honestly can't think of an reasons for that). And second, I'm pretty sure YOU don't have the wherewithal to take your data, aggregate it with trillions of other records, use it to establish a complete profile of citizens, and then use it against them (again) without suspicion let alone a warrant!


You're being treated by a psychiatrist (doesn't matter why). Photos like the ones talked about here place you there, including frequency. Thanks to Obamacare, your medical records are also part and parcel of the electronic data collected on you (which, by the way, can be LEGALLY provided to a host of personnel, both in- and outside government. At a minumum, your Second Amendment rights are now seriously jeopardized (and that's whether it's justified or not — maybe you're just being treated to get over your fear of flying before you go on vacation).

You go to a friend's apartment for an evening of cards and conversation. Your vehicle is recorded as being there. Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to you, renters in another apartment are dealing drugs. You now stand a VERY good chance of being caught up in that investigation. (Google "no knock warrant" and read some of the horror stories, and you'll see why it's a big deal even if you're innocent.)

Oh, and one more thing: People HAVE been stopped from taking photos in public. The police have, on occasion, just about had kittens when photographed or video taped. Innocent tourists have been harassed, and even arrested, because something they were taking a picture of had something considered "sensitive" in the background ("sensitive" includes such top secret facilities as power dams, power plants, and certain government offices).