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By Martin Lamarque

About this blog: I have lived in Belle Haven since 1997, and work as an interpreter in the emergency department of a county hospital. My main interest is to help improve society by way of giving families the support and information they need to ra...  (More)

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Dear City Council: Smile, you are on camera!

Uploaded: May 13, 2014
The request brought tonight to the City Council to consider the adoption of a resolution, or introduction of an ordinance regarding the use of Automated License Plate Readers and Neighborhood Surveillance Cameras could not have come on a more appropriate day.

The United States of Secrets, a Frontline documentary aired today, yahoo story explores the misguided policies that incrementally led to the runaway surveillance activities we now live under. Surveillance activities that we can only suspect, because the programs and agencies administering them are so secretive, no public scrutiny is allowed.

On the surface, the proposal presented to the City Council seems to include legal guarantees to keep the product of the surveillance from becoming harassment tools against segments of the population, and to prevent the always present possibility for misuse of the gathered data by irresponsible police employees.

It concerns me that the Police Department is pushing for this to be adopted as a resolution, and not as an ordinance. Which would basically mean that if police employees were to violate the rules dictated by the agreement, under a resolution their punishment would not necessarily be a criminal penalty. Given the experience we had where a city police officer got caught with his pants down, a prostitute, in a motel, and during his working hours, the transgression still wasn't considered serious enough for that officer to lose his job, what would the incentive be to follow the rules around the gathering and use of the data?

As someone who lives in a neighborhood prone to violent crimes, I sometimes wonder whether a couple of surveillance cameras might in fact help alleviate this violence. So to some extent, I have been on board, even if with some doubts.

I would still support the deployment of a few cameras, but not only in Belle Haven. Since according to Chief Jonsen, the number of crimes are about equal on both sides of the freeway, it would follow that cameras should be installed on both sides of the city.

If authorized, the implementation of surveillance should be as an ordinance, to provide better teeth against abuse. And if after 1-2 years of use, the surveillance cameras do not make a noticeable dent in the crime rate, they should simply be removed.
What is it worth to you?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community,
on May 16, 2014 at 3:28 pm

Citizens might want to know where the data goes, who has it? Does it goes to a private company with no oversight like a fusion center? Or is the information controlled and stored by Menlo Park Police, or some other Local Law Enforcement Agency, who is it shared with?

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Martin Lamarque, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven,
on May 16, 2014 at 8:21 pm

Hi Michael. This is the answer to your question: (To read the whole document, go here [Web Link Automated License Plate Reader Data Use A. Data will be securely transmitted to the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (?NCRIC?) as part of a multi-jurisdictional public safety program created to assist local, state, federal and tribal public safety agencies and critical infrastructure locations with the collection, analysis, and dissemination of criminal threat information, provided NCRIC has executed an agreement with the City agreeing to comply with the retention/destruction provisions set forth in this section. B. Data transmitted to NCRIC from the Police Department shall be kept no more than six months, and then destroyed, unless retention of specific identified license plate data is necessary for an active criminal case or pursuant to a valid court order. C. Data may only be accessed by law enforcement personnel who are approved to access the data and who have undergone required NCRIC training for legitimate law enforcement purposes only, such as when the data relates to a specific criminal investigation or department-related civil or administrative action. D. Data may be accessed by other NCRIC agencies that have executed a Memorandum of Understanding with NCRIC, but only for legitimate law enforcement purposes and by authorized/trained personnel and only in compliance with all policies, procedures and reporting requirements of NCRIC. E. Data may be the released to other non-NCRIC authorized and verified law enforcement officials and agencies for legitimate law enforcement purposes, with approval of the Chief of Police or Police Commander, provided any such official and/or agency has executed an agreement with the City agreeing to comply with the terms and provisions of Sections 2 and 3 of this Resolution. F. All data and images gathered are for official use of the Police Department and because such data may contain confidential California Law Enforcement Telecommunications Systems (?CLETS?) information, it is not open to public view or inspection.

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Louise68, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on May 19, 2014 at 9:53 am

I am vehemently opposed to the new police-state surveillance that is being foisted on all of us with the pretext-- the excuse -- that it will lower crime. Nonsense! The ONLY things that will lessen crime are good, old-fashioned police work -- in person! -- and fixing the things that are wrong with society and people that cause crime. License-plate readers treat everyone as a potential criminal, which is ridiculous, and unconstitutional. What happened to "innocent until proven guilty"? Isn't a police officer required to have reasonable suspicion that a person is in the act of committing a crime before he or she is allowed to stop the person and gather personal information from that person? "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Shame on the Menlo Park City Council for allowing this police-state technology to be used. Shame on them This is a VERY slippery slope, one we should NEVER go down, Ever. This technology WILL be abused -- and often.

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on May 19, 2014 at 4:55 pm

Louise: you obviously know nothing about police work hence your ignorant statement. I'm betting had you been around back when they introduced two-way radios into police cars you would have called that "police state technology" as well. This is another tool in the police officer's tool box. It simply needs to be monitored and controlled just like the state and federal government computers that are full of all kinds of information.

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