In Paradise Valley, Arizona, prickly plants have been recruited to catch lawbreakers. According to a Fox 10 report, the town has hidden a set of license-plate readers in artificial cacti. Paradise Valley has been installing readers since February, but they haven’t been as sneaky as these hidden cact-eye.
To set up these desert detectives, the town used the same artificial cacti that were previously used for cell towers, which are designed to blend into the landscape. Police say it’s a simple system to check license plates against a nationwide database of stolen cars or if they are the subject of an amber alert. However, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, who is suing police in Fairfax, Virginia for license plate scanning, the technology is “becoming a tool for mass routine location tracking and surveillance.” Though these scanners can help catch car thieves, they say, “Too many police departments are storing millions of records about innocent drivers.”
Paradise Valley Police say they were not trying to hide their new system–town manager Kevin Burke told Fox 10 that the fake cacti are meant to be aesthetically pleasing rather than secretive. He said there are no light poles to put the readers on, and he said these new devices are part of a $2 million police technology upgrade passed by the town council last year.
Burke also said that the cameras aren’t active yet. “We want to make sure we’re answering everybody’s questions about data retention, how the things will be used–we want to make sure that is vetted before we turn these things up,” Burke said.