Alameda To Expand License Plate Readers to Island Entry, Exit Points

Alameda To Expand License Plate Readers to Island Entry, Exit Points

City Council voted to expand its automated license plate readers (ALPR) program at its Feb. 1 meeting.

The plan was approved with a narrow 3-2 vote. Vice Mayor Malia Vella and Councilmember John Knox-White voted against the measure.

The approval gives city staff and Alameda Police Department officials (APD) the direction to form a Request for Proposal (RFP) to vendors seeking fixed, or stationary, ALPRs. The proposal initially sought to include mobile ALPRs for up to 30 APD vehicles, according to APD Chief Nishant Joshi. However, the council decided to not include mobile ALPRs.

The city plans to mount the fixed ALPRs at all Alameda entry and exit points. There are six routes to access the Island. Joshi said APD wants to plant cameras at up to 13 or 14 different locations at these entry points — there will be more than one camera location at an entry/exit point.

Joshi said fixed ALPRs could cost around $3,000 per camera per year. If two cameras are needed at each location that’s $77,000 per year.

Initially, the plan was for the ALPRs to capture vehicles’ front and rear license plates. But several councilmembers were opposed to potentially capturing faces of drives. So, council decided to approve the use of ALPRs to capture just rear license plates.

At the meeting, Joshi told councilmembers that ALPRs will help APD be more effective and efficient.

“APD recommends as a tool that can help solve crimes,” said Joshi in the Zoom meeting. “Additionally, this is a tool that can help reduce antiquated policing strategies that rely on reasonable suspicion.”

The use of ALPRs has been a concern of many Alameda residents for different reasons. Some residents believe ALPRs is an intrusion on the privacy of Alameda residents.

“I have never before had my privacy threatened,” said resident Marilyn Rothman. “I am so alarmed and upset that this draconian measure is even being considered.”

Joshi tried to assure the council and those watching that data retrieved from ALPRs would be used only to solve a crime. Also, APD delete data after 90 days, will conduct annual reporting of data used, no one will own the data and APD will not share information with ICE or any agency that engages in immigration enforcement.

Others were not sure if ALPRs would even prevent crime.

“The irony is the chief could have presented data of the existing ALPRs if there was any,” said Mike Katz-Lacabe, director of research for Oakland Privacy, a citizen’s coalition that works regionally to defend the right to privacy. “ALPRs happened in Piedmont in 2013. Research has shown that Piedmont’s ALPRs have not been effective in reducing crime.”

White went further on this point.

“I’m not going to say this is not going to have a benefit — but we have a lot of people calling saying they are scared for their safety, and they want these ALPRs in order to stop things from happening and the data does not make that case,” said White. “Nobody can make the case that these things decrease crime because there is no data.”

When Joshi was asked how ALPRs would help stop crime, he gave an indirect answer. Not all public speakers were opposed to ALPRs.

“The department is lacking patrols throughout Alameda,” said resident Barry Parker. “This has led to an increase in crime in Alameda and a sense of fear for our personal safety. Through advancements in electronic detection, the police force would all be alerted to stolen cars are cars with stolen license plates. Their purpose in coming to Alameda is to commit crime. Alameda needs to send a message to thieves.”

Councilmembers Tony Daysog and Trish Herrera Spencer both voted in favor of the plan. The deciding vote came down to Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft.

“I do think ALPRs provide police another tool in their tool kit at a time where policing is very complicated,” said Ashcraft.

Next, city officials will work to create an RFP to send out to potential vendors. They will go back to the council for the approval of the RFP. The council approved the use of ALPRs in four APD vehicles in 2014.



Regarding the article, (“ Alameda To Expand License Plate Readers to Island Entry, Exit Points,” Feb. 10), I am one of those "...old white guys...." who is "scared sh_tl_ss.." at times to go out. I have young grandkids, and a family member who is immuno-compromised and weakened from cancer.
We like to walk, shop, and recreate. BTW, I am a proud Encinal High School grad, who has spent a lot of time in Alameda, Oakland and the greater Bay Area growing up, working and schooling. I am not a "white supremacist”, and I am painfully aware of Alameda's long history racism, and school district gerrymandering. I am not a vacationer or a transient, and I have had and still have investments in Alameda for 30 years.
I am glad to see progress on installing license plate readers. Here is why. I note that a lot of these "smash and grab" events, car break-ins (I watched one in progress at South Shore a month ago) and shoplifting (I watched one at Safeway) involve probable wrongdoers who depart via vehicles that have no license plates. If nothing else, the license plate readers will note cars with no plates, and report that car! That is better than what we are doing now!
If we use "car" recognition software and that car returns to Alameda, or is seen in other locations, it can be investigated. I am totally "down" with criminal justice and policing reforms, anti-poverty measures, housing for houseless, but like many others, I do not want my family to be hurt. I am not worried about "big brother" looking in on my life. I can only hope that there were cameras and license plate readers in and around the White House to catch the biggest thief of all, Donald Trump who appears to have stolen Top-Secret documents. If you or I had done that, the FBI would be at our doors with guns drawn. Our nation has gone weird, and not in a direction I had hoped for all my life.
BTW, I support getting traffic cameras at key intersections and on certain streets like Otis Drive, Encinal Avenue, High Street, and Fernside Boulevard. We encounter red-light runners and speeders all the time.
I applaud the Alameda Police Department for their efforts to catch speeders. I watch the occasional stationing of police vehicles or police motorcycles near my house, and they can catch a speeder every minute because that is how frequent speeding is, and this is a well-known school area. We lost a beloved local politician on Otis remember. I support the police, and I support them being under scrutiny, after all, they are part of our government, so let us work to help them meet our needs.