A look inside the easily abused and barely regulated universe of license plate surveillance. 

Accountant Arthur Ureche was heading to work in Hollywood Hills on Jan. 30 last year when he turned his Enterprise rental onto Laurel Canyon Boulevard and noticed four LAPD squad cars following him.

He guessed that their presence involved another celebrity “S.W.A.T.-ing” incident: teen hackers had been sending police units to the homes of stars, including Ashton Kutcher, Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus.

So Ureche, 40, pulled his white Chevy compact over and waited for them to pass.

 When he checked the rear-view mirror, he saw that they’d spread out across the road a good distance behind and were blocking traffic. He couldn’t imagine they’d have any interest in him, a union dues administrator in a button-down shirt whose last traffic ticket, at age 19, was for driving too slowly.

But something was definitely wrong. Five cops crouched behind car doors, their weapons aimed in his direction.

By Chris Francescani; Photos by Jenny McCabe

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