Faking out license plate cameras

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This article describes an interesting hack on license plate cameras:
As a prank, students from local high schools have been taking advantage of the county's Speed Camera Program in order to exact revenge on people who they believe have wronged them in the past, including other students and even teachers. Students from Richard Montgomery High School dubbed the prank the Speed Camera "Pimping" game, according to a parent of a student enrolled at one of the high schools.

Originating from Wootton High School, the parent said, students duplic ate the license plates by printing plate numbers on glossy photo paper, using fonts from certain websites that "mimic" those on Maryland license plates. They tape the duplicate plate over the existing plate on the back of their car and purposefully speed through a speed camera, the parent said. The victim then receives a citation in the mail days later.

Obviously, this will work technically: you want to be able to read the license plate numbers even from photos with errors of various kinds. However, if people are actually getting tickets when you do this, then this reveals some pretty lame procedures by whoever's running the photo radar system, since presumably the photo of the driver doesn't match whatever the driver's license photo of the person you're issuing the ticket to, and of course the car model probably doesn't match either. This seems like the kind of thing you probably should check if you want to make sure that you're issuing the ticket to the right person. Actually, I had thought this was SOP.


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This seems like the kind of thing you probably should check if you want to make sure that you're issuing the ticket to the right person.

That only matters if the point is to correct behavior and make people safer.

Most speed cameras are done entirely for revenue generation.

Actually, I've gotten tickets (for my own actions) from these cameras. The letter they send you claims that under MD law, the owner of a car is subject to penalties for crimes committed with the car regardless of who is driving it at the time. Assuming the law actually says that (I haven't checked), you would think there would still be a requirement that to verify that the observed license plate is actually attached to the car it's legally supposed to be attached to. Apparently the MD police assume that this is the case, but that's the thing these kids are falsifying.

Regarding the last point, that's how it should work but in practice some police departments have no concern whatsoever for public safety. In San Diego, years of people complaining about red-light cameras (some of my coworkers received tickets which clearly showed their car stopped behind the line) resulted in a court-case where discovery revealed that the processing didn't involve law enforcement at all (the city basically just received a check) and that the city improved revenue generation by reducing the yellow-light time well below the legal minimum in the traffic code, which in addition to being illegal caused accidents as people learned to panic-stop on the yellow at those intersections.

Unfortunately this caused some embarrassment but wasn't the career-ending move it should have been for everyone involved in the decision.

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