Portola Valley: Home-invasion robberies prompt petition for license-plate-reading cameras

Town considers using home video surveillance cameras; sheriff steps up patrols

After armed gunmen invaded and robbed an occupied home in the Alpine Hills neighborhood of Portola Valley on Oct. 13 – the second such incident in this neighborhood in six months – a petition is making the rounds to install fixed automated license-plate-reading cameras at key locations to catch traffic into and out of town.

The petition, forwarded to the Almanac by a resident of Portola Valley, had 291 signatures as of Oct. 17 and asks the Town Council to "immediately re-consider" a recent decision not to install the cameras, "given the progressive and violent nature of recent home invasion robberies." It's not clear how many of the signatories are residents of Portola Valley.

Surveillance cameras, sheriff patrols

Town Manager Jeremy Dennis issued a 10-point memo to the public via email on Monday afternoon, Oct. 17, itemizing the steps taken by the town and the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office, which provides police services for the town.

The memo includes contact information for setting up neighborhood watches and a list of all burglaries in town since 2010.

The town is considering a program by which residents can register their own home-video surveillance cameras, and the Sheriff's Office has been patrolling parts of the community known to be hotspots for crime with a team of three detectives and a sergeant.

In both robberies, the robbers were armed with handguns and corralled the residents while the robbery was taking place, according to the Sheriff's Office. Unlike the Oct. 13 incident, in which one person was injured with a cut to the side of his head, the incident in June 2016 did not result in injuries.

The council held a two-hour community forum about the license-plate-reading cameras on Sept. 28 and decided to continue with its wait-and-see approach pending proof of their effectiveness in actually solving crimes.

"Generally speaking, there is a dearth of quantifiable studies that test the effectiveness of (the cameras)," Town Manager Jeremy Dennis said in a staff report ahead of the forum. Moreover, there's a question as to how often law enforcement would actually consult camera data since losses from property crimes in Portola Valley tend not to be high enough to trigger a Sheriff's Office investigation, the report said.

At the forum, speakers from the public were more or less equally divided in favor of and opposed to putting in the cameras.

The petition is not dismissive of the nuances of camera installation. "We request that this issue be given a very high priority for consideration and discussion at the next possible meeting date," the petition says. "While we recognize the limitations of ALPRs, we support their use in conjunction with other crime deterrent methods."


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Like this comment
Posted by Local
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Oct 18, 2016 at 12:45 pm

There was one more robbery on Golden Oak this morning around 10:30am,

6 people like this
Posted by Roy
a resident of Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch
on Oct 18, 2016 at 1:42 pm

I doubt that license plate readers would help solve those crimes. I would think that those criminals would be driving a stolen car to avoid being identified. The real effect would be the loss of privacy to innocent citizens.

2 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 18, 2016 at 2:16 pm

Privacy is going to h*ll. Orwell was right.
Read this Web Link

7 people like this
Posted by pvrez
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Oct 18, 2016 at 2:54 pm

@Roy - there's an ALPR in operation currently in front of the Shell station in Ladera. They're all over the place, including all the bridge toll plazas in the Bay Area and on the SMC Sheriff's patrol cars. So if your view is that privacy is lost when your Lic plate is read by one of these devices, the reality is, it's been gone for quite some time.

Now the real question is, will the ALPR that was in place this morning during the time of the burglary on Golden Oak help with this investigation or not.

12 people like this
Posted by Mary Urbach
a resident of Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on Oct 18, 2016 at 3:32 pm

I am now and have always been in favor of license plate reading cameras.

14 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 18, 2016 at 5:30 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

There is zero expectation of privacy in the public space.

14 people like this
Posted by PV resident
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Oct 18, 2016 at 7:43 pm

Privacy is lost in public. Are those opposed to ALPR's hiding something? If one has nothing to hide, then it does not matter. The thieves are increasing their frequency and tes have changed. It is time to trap them with all of us watching out for each other. Have the police or public seen the white sedan in neighborimg towns? These are aggressive individuals with no empathy for crying victims nr children. They are lile rabid animals.

10 people like this
Posted by local
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Oct 19, 2016 at 7:24 am

don't worry about privacy people - Everytime you turn on your cell phone someone is knows where you are & with whom you are talking, Everytime you turn on your computer someone is watching what you are looking uo on the interrnet. Everytime you use your credir card someone is tracking your spending habits. Everytime you do much of anything someone out there is watching. Don't worry about ALPRS. Maybe we should try for 6 months to see if that helps or do we have to wait for someone to get injured in a home invasion before realiaty sets in?
I am all infavor of giving it a try

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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