- Associated Press - Thursday, March 13, 2014

Aberdeen American News, Aberdeen, March 12, 2014

License plate readers a good tool, but worth watching

When two citizens went before the Aberdeen City Council Monday night to express their concerns about the use of license plate readers by police, they spoke for many residents.

The comments on the American News Facebook page, for instance, have seemed to be strongly against Aberdeen police’s use of the scanners mounted on two cars, concerned over the potential for misuse and of privacy.

We take those concerns seriously, too, and tend to advocate in favor of the liberty of Aberdonians to drive down the road without undue suspicion.

In a meeting with the editorial board Monday, Police Chief Don Lanpher Jr. explained the police’s use of the scanners and acknowledged the concerns of the public.

We agree with Lanpher the scanners can be a useful tool for law enforcement and, in this case, don’t seem to infringe on anyone’s privacy.

Lanpher explained that the license plate reader, by a company called Vigilant Solutions, only collects data and matches it against another police database that is a compilation of information collected by local law enforcement.

The plate readers won’t give police a match on, say, traffic violations, which are handled in a different database, Lanpher said.

What police are looking for are matches related to burglaries and break-ins. They check that sex offenders are not in areas they shouldn’t be. They can match plates for Amber or Silver alerts.

And the technology is only making data simpler to track.

According to Vigilant Solutions, Aberdeen is the first city in South Dakota to use the technology. But it has been used - some would say misused - in other states.

Vigilant Solutions is suing the state of Utah for banning automated, high-speed cameras for taking pictures of license plates.

Lanpher insists that an audit of the database provides the checks and balances needed to be sure no one abuses the records, such as what happened to a Minnesota police officer, who was awarded $1 million in 2012 after it was learned colleagues had accessed her private driver’s license information hundreds of times.

The public has a reasonable expectation of privacy. But license plates are not private. The kind of cars we are seen driving on city streets are not private.

Police are caught between what the public desires vs. new technology that could dramatically improve their jobs and, by extension, public safety.

It’s a conversation worth having, and continuing.

We should all keep an eye on how the readers are used going forward, and hope they get the desired results for law enforcement.

Lanpher, who has announced his Aug. 15 retirement, will get another chance to explain the system, and soon: At least two City Council members Monday asked Lanpher to present a report on the license plate readers and how they are being used by the department.

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The Daily Republic, Mitchell, March 12, 2014

State study on gambling is overdue

A good idea comes our way from Pierre, where lottery officials are proposing a comprehensive study on gambling addiction in South Dakota.

If it happens, it would be the first such study in 15 years in our state, which relies heavily on proceeds from gambling.

But some members of the state Legislature see a problem: letting the South Dakota Lottery conduct the study seems akin to “the fox guarding the henhouse,” in the words of Rep. Scott Craig, R-Rapid City.

Let’s first note that a study like this is overdue. We have said many times we’re not against gambling, but we are against expansion of gambling. We feel it’s irresponsible of state government to constantly look at ways to increase gambling revenue, and we have been vocal with our concerns. We know of people who are desperately addicted and have ruined their lives over gambling. The state needs to be cognizant of such things.

And then earlier this year, Lottery Commission Executive Director Norm Lingle told a Senate committee that video lottery revenue in the state is stagnant, and that “we need to get the younger folks involved.”

We don’t agree whatsoever with that thinking. We understand that gambling and the lottery mean jobs in South Dakota, and we’re all for keeping it where it’s at. But expansion is another story, and peddling it to a younger generation is just distasteful.

So yes, we do agree that a study on gambling addiction would be helpful as South Dakota considers what to do with gambling in the future. And yes, we definitely side with Rep. Craig on this one — the study should happen, but it should be conducted by an outside, independent agency.

It’s the responsible thing to do.

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Capital Journal, Pierre, March 12, 2014

Finding out what’s in the lake can help us protect what we have here

We’re elated down here in South Dakota that our state officials have at last pinpointed the one population in our country that does not seem to be heading to North Dakota for the oil boom.

That would be the walleye population in Lake Oahe.

The first data gathered from a vast, four-year effort to tag some 40,000 walleye in South Dakota and North Dakota and gather data from tracking where those tagged fish are caught suggests that 30 percent of fish tagged in North Dakota traveled to South Dakota; but only 1 percent of South Dakota fish traveled to North Dakota. The longest distance a fish traveled since tagging was 298 river miles, all the way from Garrison Dam in North Dakota to Okobojo Point, north of Pierre.

Of course fisheries officials are quick to say that the data so far is mainly telling them about summer movement patterns, since that’s when most of the tagged fish so far have been caught. Less is known about how walleye move in Lake Oahe in winter and spring.

But that’s the very point of doing a study of this magnitude - finding out the answers to many questions that we don’t know, not just about fish movements, but about spawning patterns, and even about how long some of the tagged fish might live before being harvested.

Ultimately, what fisheries biologists learn about perhaps the key issue - something called “exploitation” or the percent of fish that are harvested - can help them to better manage the lake in order to protect what we have here.

It’s another case where scientific research can make life better for everyone. South Dakota is fortunate to have a stellar group of fisheries researchers at South Dakota State University to work with on projects of this nature, and they’re fortunate to have such a good working relationship with their counterparts at North Dakota Game & Fish.

Ultimately, all of South Dakota benefits from anything that helps Lake Oahe.

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