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Menlo Park to buy surveillance equipment, but delay use until crafting privacy policy

Original post made on Sep 25, 2013

After several hours of sometimes spirited discussion on Tuesday night, the Menlo Park City Council voted to approve the purchase of three automated license plate readers and four surveillance cameras, but delayed deployment of the technology.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, September 25, 2013, 8:51 AM

Comments (21)

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Posted by Srini
a resident of another community
on Sep 25, 2013 at 12:57 pm

There is no policy in place, no memorandum of understanding, and no idea where they will be placed, yet the purchase was approved. Menlo Park will buy the equipment, but delay it's deployment. Are they having an "end of the month special" on those cameras? The sequence of events is tweaked.


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Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 25, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Oh goody, goody said the council while gleefully rubbing their hands together in Orwellian fashion. Let us spend $107,682 now so we can waste it before someone suggests a need which truly deserves our attention.


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Posted by Jim
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 25, 2013 at 2:22 pm

What kind of Orwellian society are we creating? The NCRIC is a part of the Department of Homeland Security. There have been numerous articles about how the Patriot Act has been abused, how data that should not have been collected under the Patriot Act was collected, AND how it was shared with and used by the IRS and the DEA.

If the city believes that we need this, then run it ourselves and do not share it with Federal agencies.

There is NO way that this data, once in the database of the NCRIC and the "Fusion Center" that it will not become part of the broader fabric of surveillance of citizens generally in the name of our safety.


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Posted by Gov't out of control
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 25, 2013 at 3:59 pm

With the abuse of groups by the IRS based on political point of view and the turnover of massive amounts of cellphone data and emails of US citizens to Federal agencies without subpoenas, it is good to remember that vigilance is required to maintain liberty. (Look up Thomas Jefferson for the exact quote.)

On the flip side, with all this surveillance, what is the criteria for the police taking preventive or corrective action when they see a crime or violation? Is it going to be everyone who didn't come to a complete stop at the stop sign gets a ticket, or just the people with a high probability of being able to pay the high fines based on their registration information and publicly available web-based data? When the cameras catch twelve incidences of vandalism in a month, will the decision be - arrest all, or will it be arrest a subset to get a racial cross section? When a witness calls or a private camera catches evidence, there is evidence not under government control which can be used to verify the facts independently of the police.
Maybe I have convinced myself the surveillance cameras are a good thing if all the data is saved for say 3 years and available to the public under a FOIA type system and definitely available to the accused. This will help prevent selective enforcement.


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Posted by ICU ಠ_ಠ
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 25, 2013 at 6:08 pm

Well hey, while we're at it let's set up the Menlo Park Department of Pre-Crime! Because real police work is so . . . tedious!

And let's use these license plate scanners for traffic enforcement. Go from point A to point B too fast, get a traffic ticket. Marvelous! And not just for Menlo Park. Local governments can share data so that getting from one end of the Dumbarton to the other too quickly results in a fine. Fabulous!

We really, really need to establish all of the trappings of the Surveillance State so that we can then move on to the Police Sate. Because, TERRORISM! And, uh, CHILD PORNOGRAPHY! And, uh, uh, . . . sorry, I've run out of dreck.

Person of Interest just started its new TV season: "You are being watched." Hmm, why does that come to mind?


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Posted by ICU2
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 25, 2013 at 6:22 pm

Note to ICU: It's not that real police work is tedious. Rather, it's respecting the Constitutional mandates of the Bill of Rights that's tedious.

Tyranny is much more efficient than constitutional republican democracy.


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Posted by ICU all
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 25, 2013 at 6:34 pm

DOJ study on license plate trackers finds "no significant difference" in crime. Privacy cost and no security gain.

Web Link

Study 1
General Crime
Lum and colleagues (2011) found no significant difference in the levels of all crime between the experimental license plate recognition (LPR) hot spots and control (no LPR) hot spots during the intervention period and 30 days after. This suggests that deployment of LPR did not have a general deterrent effect on all crimes.

Auto Theft/Theft From Auto and Auto-Related Crimes
There were also no significant differences between the LPR hot spots and control hot spots on auto theft or auto-related crimes during the intervention period and 30 days after. This suggests that deployment of LPR did not have an offense-specific deterrent effect either.

Study 2
Vehicle Theft
Taylor, Koper, and Woods (2012) found no statistically significant differences between the LPR group, the manual plate checking group, or the normal patrol control group based on calls for services (CFS) for vehicle theft during the intervention weeks and during the 2 weeks immediately following the intervention. The multivariate analysis showed that the routes with the manual plate checking saw a statistically significant 75 percent decline in the odds of having a CFS for vehicle theft versus the control group routes, although the effect faded over time. There was no significant change noted for the routes with the LPR.

During the intervention weeks, there were also no statistically significant differences between the groups on vehicle theft based on Uniform Crime Report (UCR) data. However, during the 2 weeks postintervention, there was a statistically significant difference observed. The routes with the LPR had a slightly higher number of vehicle thefts compared to the routes with the manual plate checks or control group routes. Multivariate analysis of the UCR data revealed results similar to those found based on analysis of the CFS data. There was a statistically significant 74 percent reduction in the odds of a UCR-reported vehicle theft in the manual plate check routes versus the control group routes; however, again the effect faded over time. There was no significant effect noted for the routes with the LPR.

Recovery of Stolen Vehicles
There was a small, statistically significant difference in the number of recoveries for occupied stolen vehicles between the LPR and manual plate check routes, but no significant difference in the number of recoveries of unoccupied stolen vehicles between the two routes. The routes with the LPR had four recoveries for occupied stolen vehicles compared to zero recoveries for the manual plate check routes (a statistically significant difference). The routes with LPR also had six recoveries for unoccupied stolen vehicles compared to five recoveries for the manual plate check routes (a nonsignificant difference).

Arrests
Again, there was a small, yet significant difference in the number of arrests for stolen vehicles between the LPR and manual plate check routes, but there was no significant difference in the number of arrests for stolen plates between the two routes. The routes with the LPR had three arrests for stolen vehicles, compared to zero arrests for the manual plate check routes (a statistically significant difference). The routes with the LPR also had one arrest for stolen plates compared to zero arrests for the manual plate check routes (a nonsignificant difference).


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Posted by whaever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 26, 2013 at 10:03 am

@hat are the chances of stopping this with the next ballot?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 26, 2013 at 10:17 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

You would need about 1800 signatures from registered voters.
In my opinion it is very unlikely that you could get that many.


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Posted by 1984
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Sep 26, 2013 at 10:42 am

Even if we're not smart enough to live in Atherton, Menlo Park residents aren't fools. Many of us are concerned about increased incursions into our privacy. It's one thing to joke about the NSA, but this hits too close to home. 1800 signatures would not be a problem, but I would rather work with the council to pull the plug now.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 26, 2013 at 11:17 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

There is no way that you could get 1800 signatures if registered voters on this issue. To start with you have to draft specific language for the proposed ballot measure. I doubt that you could get even 100 people to agree on such language - some will think the proposed language is too broad and others will think it is too narrow.

But this is a testable proposition - go ahead and try.

And anonymous signatures are not allowed.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 26, 2013 at 11:33 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

It is notable that the overwhelming majority of elected and appointed officials support responsible surveillance. Why? Because they are concerned with and responsible for the community at large rather than considering the issue in the narrow context of the individual.


For example:
"There's a generalized right of privacy that comes from penumbras and emanations, blah blah blah, garbage."

— Antonin Scalia, Supreme Court Justice, on a 1967 Supreme Court ruling that decided the Fourth Amendment right to unreasonable search and seizure extended to wiretaps. (Katz v. United States) In a speech Wednesday to the Northern Virginia Technology Council, Scalia said he thought the high court would ultimately have to decide the constitutionality of National Security Agency wiretapping. And he doesn't think that's a good thing. "Whether the NSA can do the stuff it's been doing … which used to be a question for the people … will now be resolved by the branch of government that knows the least about the issues in question, the branch that knows the least about the extent of the threat against which the wiretapping is directed," the justice said. He mentioned that airport patdowns are "a terrible intrusion of privacy," but "you're willing to do it because of the seriousness of the threat." The government has tried to justify the NSA's massive surveillance programs, which include the scooping up of Americans' phone call information and online communications, as necessary to fight terrorism."

I wonder if those posters opposed to responsible surveillance would be prepared to tell law enforcement not to use any surveillance data to catch someone who robbed them, stole their car or even kidnapped their child? I doubt that their beliefs go that deep.


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Posted by Chris
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Sep 26, 2013 at 1:04 pm

"Because of the seriousness of the threat" (as indicated in Kenya) all shopping malls will have entry metal detectors, body scans and patdowns immediately. Also, all entering malls shall be photographed and the photos compared to the suspicious persons database. Suspicious persons in malls shall be confronted, their identity verified, and their information shall be supplied to the National Fusion Center. Children's and teens' backpacks will be checked for explosive devices. Bomb-sniffing dogs will patrol mall open areas, and Ronald McDonald will be in charge of the entire operation.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 26, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Unfortunately wit is not a good substitute for reasoned thought.


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Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 26, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Lighten-up Peter. Chris is just telling it as it is, and in a very reasoned manner.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 26, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Having spent a lot if time in Nairobi I can assure you that Chris' comments are not "reasoned" but rather both tasteless and inappropriate. And I know that close friends of mine who were in the Westgate Mall at the time if the terrorist attack would be appalled by Chris' comments.


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Posted by old timer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 26, 2013 at 7:12 pm

The decision to purchase license plate readers, is perhaps the most obnoxious decision any Menlo Park Council has ever made.

This should really trigger a RECALL of all Council members who approve this. Even the State Highway Patrol, does not keep data beyond 2 months. What is wrong with the residents of Menlo Park, who have yet to rise up and kill this proposal.

My word, traffic light cameras, and now this. What a pathetic council and what lousy leadership from the Police Department, City Staff and City Manager.


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Posted by Privacy is Valuable
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 27, 2013 at 10:22 am

Part of that MOU needs to include enforceable rules about data retention. There isn't too much to be concerned about with the scanners in the first place. It's really just a more efficient way of doing what officers do today.

BUT, retaining the data for prolonged periods creates a data trail that becomes a serious breach of civil liberties. It is not enough for MPPD to have a short (30-90 day) retention policy if they can't get the aggregating agencies to comply to the same. They are not today.


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Posted by 1984
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Sep 27, 2013 at 11:31 am

"I wonder if those posters opposed to responsible surveillance would be prepared to tell law enforcement not to use any surveillance data to catch someone who robbed them, stole their car or even kidnapped their child? I doubt that their beliefs go that deep."

What a cheap and inappropriate tactic, one that justifies any and every possible infringement on privacy. The only way to provide 100% "protection" is to place tracking and surveillance devices on everything we own and everyone we care about. And at that point, our freedom is for naught. Meanwhile, the criminals figure out how to circumvent the devices -- they always do -- and the problem of policing the police becomes even more fraught with danger.

Anyone who likes the idea of a police state in which criminals can be apprehended even before a crime is committed, has a choice of places to move. Let's keep that kind of "security" as far away from Menlo Park as possible, can we?


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Sep 27, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Cameras on the street have cut down on crime and potential terrorism.

Here in the U.S., you are photographed by vendors on most streets as you walk by, and in every store you enter. It's a trade-off we make for safety.

But be aware, safety is not the stores; only concern. New devices are coming on the market for stores to read your credit card info and recent purchases so that they can send you targeted sale info on your phone as you walk through the store.

So you think that you have privacy?? It's over folks. 911 changed everything.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 27, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Posted by 1984, a resident of the Menlo Park: Felton Gables neighborhood, 1 hour ago

"I wonder if those posters opposed to responsible surveillance would be prepared to tell law enforcement not to use any surveillance data to catch someone who robbed them, stole their car or even kidnapped their child? I doubt that their beliefs go that deep."

"What a cheap and inappropriate tactic, one that justifies any and every possible infringement on privacy. "

No, I just asked a question ? Are you afraid of the question or of the answers?

The police have already requested private surveillance tapes to identify this morning's hit and run killer on Middlefield. Should the police withdraw that request?


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