News

Atherton considers license plate readers as burglaries continue

 

In response to a rash of residential burglaries that have plagued the town since November, Atherton staff will study the impacts of installing license plate readers and security cameras around town to "detect, solve, prevent and deter" crime. But the City Council wants to hear more from residents before making a final decision on purchasing the devices.

During a March 20 meeting, the council voted 4-0, with Elizabeth Lewis absent, to direct staff to research installing license plate readers and safety cameras around town.

The council instructed staff to work with the police department to identify safeguards to ensure that there aren't information leaks from the reader databases if the devices are installed. It also asked staff to identify security and privacy concerns and how they might be addressed, and to determine the cost of the devices and where they could be installed.

After its research, staff is expected to report back to the council during a "well-advertised" meeting.

The crime spree dates back to late 2018. There have been eight residential burglaries in Atherton so far this year and 22 since November, according to police data. About $2 million worth of goods was reported stolen in the first four incidents of 2019, police said.

"The community is concerned about the burglaries," said Vice Mayor Rick DeGolia. "In the last six months, I've gotten more emails on the burglary subject than any other."

Automatic license plate readers, known as ALPRs, are mounted on police cars or on fixtures such as road signs and bridges. The readers use small high-speed cameras to photograph about 900 plates per minute, according to a town staff report.

One police patrol car currently has a license plate reader, City Manager George Rodericks said in an email. The town is primarily focused on studying pole-mounted readers at key intersections, he said.

At the meeting, the council also discussed the positives and negatives of two alternatives: using ALPRs from a private company; or installing them through the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center, or NCRIC, a program created to help public safety agencies with the collection, analysis and dissemination of information that may relate to crime. Council members discussed how a private company's ALPRs would cost less, but noted the risk that data could be lost if the company goes out of business.

The question of whether to install the readers in town was raised at a January community meeting on the residential burglary spree, Rodericks said.

Menlo Park and Portola Valley are among local jurisdictions that have installed surveillance systems that record license plate numbers. Atherton Mayor Bill Widmer said he'd like to know what privacy issues have come up in other towns that have installed the readers.

Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union are opposed to ALPRs because the information captured by them -- including the license plate number and the date, time, and location of every scan -- is sometimes pooled into regional sharing systems, according to the ACLU website. As a result, police are creating and storing enormous databases of innocent motorists' location information, and there are few restrictions to protect privacy rights, according to the ACLU.

Only one resident spoke on the topic during public comment. Christine Curry told the council that she too is concerned about the burglaries, but doesn't want residents' civil liberties violated. She said she does not want to be on surveillance when she drives in and out of town.

The ACLU obtained records this month that show local governments in California cities such as Merced and Union City are feeding their residents' personal information from license plate readers to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, even when it violates local privacy laws or sanctuary city policies. ICE has used times, dates and location coordinates from the readers to target immigrants, according to the ACLU.

License plate readers do not collect "personal identifying information," see into vehicles, use facial recognition software or share vehicle information with private sector companies, according to a police department report presented at the meeting. The readers don't transfer data to the federal government, and surveillance cameras owned and maintained by the town would capture video footage only from public areas, according to the report.

The town already has some infrastructure in place to accommodate traffic cameras and public safety cameras, Rodericks said. A private group called Atherton Fiber has been installing a new high-speed internet service in town. As part of that project, and in exchange for leasable space near the town's telecommunications tower for Atherton Fiber's hub, the town negotiated the installation of fiber wiring in all town facilities and at all major intersections for future town use, he said.

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Comments

Like this comment
Posted by ol' Atherton Home
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 27, 2019 at 12:19 pm

> 22 since November

How do these numbers compare to specific 'sprees' I've heard about in my last 30 years in Atherton?

What will the data protections be after the data is collected? Misused data in other cities appears to be a regular problem.


26 people like this
Posted by Jeff
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Mar 27, 2019 at 2:24 pm

I'm also concerned about the burglaries, but it's not worth it to sacrifice civil liberties and privacy to cut down on crime. How about studying the effectiveness of programs to raise awareness for citizens to install and maintain their alarm systems and install door cams and web cams in our own houses that doesn't upload data to government databases? I don't want Big Brother watching us, even if it might catch some criminals.

See Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 27, 2019 at 2:48 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Jeff:

you won't be sacrificing civil liberties. The SCOTUS has repeatedly ruled that no one has any expectation of privacy in public.


3 people like this
Posted by LawNOrder
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Mar 27, 2019 at 3:23 pm

All you need to know is that the ACLU is opposed to ALPRs. Bogus concerns. There is no longer privacy for individual citizens. In US. Jim Comey stated and confirmed that fact in his address to Congress.
Took over 2+ years to get PV Town Council to approve them in PV.
They ARE paying off.


2 people like this
Posted by Back to Kansas for me
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 27, 2019 at 3:32 pm

@lawn order

"They ARE paying off"

Pretty adamant. Your proof? Links?

One notes data issues in two local communities listed above: Union City and Merced. Lord knows about data collected elsewhere.


2 people like this
Posted by Dr Smith
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Mar 27, 2019 at 4:29 pm

Alprs DO a work, even if they work mostly as a deterrent. Statistics prove about a 30-45% decrease in crime in cities that have installed them. However, it works well in PV since all entrance points are covered, something that won’t be possible for AT to do


6 people like this
Posted by ol' Atherton Home
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 27, 2019 at 5:22 pm

> Statistics prove about a 30-45% decrease
> However, it works well in PV since all entrance points are covered,

I missed the report about the fantastic decrease in crime in PV. That's great - you are really smart - share the link?


6 people like this
Posted by Civil Liberties
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 27, 2019 at 5:32 pm

Menlo Voter "you won't be sacrificing civil liberties. The SCOTUS has repeatedly ruled that no one has any expectation of privacy in public."

In other words, it's not illegal for the Atherton police department to do this, but it's completely okay for the residents to decide we won't want something to happen just because the law may allow it. Red light cameras, which I've seen you come out against in other posts, are also legal to install, but well managed communities usually decide not to.

Here it's an easy answer. The cameras didn't help in Portola Valley and will wind up being abused (against residents' expectations if not the law) by a police department that has been at the cutting edge of doing stupid and ill-advised stuff.

NO.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 28, 2019 at 7:43 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Civil Liberties:

I didn't address the effectiveness of ALPRs. I addressed your comment regarding the loss of civil liberties. There is none.


1 person likes this
Posted by Dr. Smith
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Mar 28, 2019 at 8:02 am

In one study, ALPRs cut the crime rate in half. In another, it eliminated the need for several officers as they were so effective. The proof is in the pudding: the small inconvenience, cost, and loss of privacy is worrh the incredible reduction in crime


2 people like this
Posted by Pudding Proof
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Mar 28, 2019 at 10:18 am

"Dr" Smith

"> Statistics prove about a 30-45% decrease
> However, it works well in PV since all entrance points are covered,

I missed the report about the fantastic decrease in crime in PV. That's great - you are really smart - share the link?"

.........

More claims/fibs. Answer the request above.

Proof?

I know your claim about PV is a blatant falsehood.


Like this comment
Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 28, 2019 at 10:52 am

I am unsure about whether data is more secure in the hands of a government agency or private citizens. For example, one of my neighbors at the intersection of Hillview and Cotton has cameras that appear to be able to record images or video of all traffic passing through this intersection. And these cameras are surely not restricted to just license plates. Who controls this data? What restrictions are there on its use? What prevents this neighbor from giving all captured images to any random government or non-government entity? To me this is really creepy. If some random persons can collect data like this, why not law enforcement which is subject to much more oversight?


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 28, 2019 at 11:37 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Who controls this data?" No one except the person who recorded it

"What restrictions are there on its use?" None

"What prevents this neighbor from giving all captured images to any random government or non-government entity?" Nothing


What we do in a public space is not protected from the observations and recoding by others. A public space is public.

" If some random persons can collect data like this, why not law enforcement which is subject to much more oversight?"
I agree.


9 people like this
Posted by Wrong
a resident of another community
on Mar 28, 2019 at 12:18 pm

Law enforcement is actually subject to far less oversight than private citizens. Police in California have no real oversight. If you make a complaint about what they do, they decide what to do about it and keep the complaints confidential before destroying them. If they have a complaint about what you did, it becomes a public record that follows you around for life. I’m not saying police are bad, all police are bad or anything like that. Im saying when they do perform a bad act, they are about as unaccountable as you can get. People should be wary about installing public cameras by police on the theory that the police will held accountable if they do something wrong. Much history in Atherton shows this is true with respect to their own police department.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 28, 2019 at 12:23 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Your local police have exactly as much oversight as the citizens demand.

And Senate Bill 1421 now requires transparency on police discipline.

"
SB 1421, Skinner. Peace officers: release of records.
The California Public Records Act requires a state or local agency, as defined, to make public records available for inspection, subject to certain exceptions. Existing law requires any peace officer or custodial officer personnel records, as defined, and any records maintained by any state or local agency relating to complaints against peace officers and custodial officers, or any information obtained from these records, to be confidential and prohibits the disclosure of those records in any criminal or civil proceeding, except by discovery. Existing law describes exceptions to this requirement for investigations or proceedings concerning the conduct of peace officers or custodial officers, and for an agency or department that employs those officers, conducted by a grand jury, a district attorney’s office, or the Attorney General’s office.
This bill would require, notwithstanding any other law, certain peace officer or custodial officer personnel records and records relating to specified incidents, complaints, and investigations involving peace officers and custodial officers to be made available for public inspection pursuant to the California Public Records Act. The bill would define the scope of disclosable records. The bill would require records disclosed pursuant to this provision to be redacted only to remove personal data or information, such as a home address, telephone number, or identities of family members, other than the names and work-related information of peace officers and custodial officers, to preserve the anonymity of complainants and witnesses, or to protect confidential medical, financial, or other information in which disclosure would cause an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy that clearly outweighs the strong public interest in records about misconduct by peace officers and custodial officers, or where there is a specific, particularized reason to believe that disclosure would pose a significant danger to the physical safety of the peace officer, custodial officer, or others. Additionally the bill would authorize redaction where, on the facts of the particular case, the public interest served by nondisclosure clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure. The bill would allow the delay of disclosure, as specified, for records relating to an open investigation or court proceeding, subject to certain limitations.
The California Constitution requires local agencies, for the purpose of ensuring public access to the meetings of public bodies and the writings of public officials and agencies, to comply with a statutory enactment that amends or enacts laws relating to public records or open meetings and contains findings demonstrating that the enactment furthers the constitutional requirements relating to this purpose."


5 people like this
Posted by Wrong
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 28, 2019 at 12:27 pm

That bill only applies to sustained complaints about lying or use of lethal force. Since the police get to decide for themselves if the complaint about themselves is sustained or not, this new law will have little practical effect outside of deadly force cases.


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 28, 2019 at 12:35 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Wrong - have you ever appeared at a Town Council meeting and asked for more Atherton PD accountability?


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"(b) (1) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), subdivision (f) of Section 6254 of the Government Code, or any other law, the following peace officer or custodial officer personnel records and records maintained by any state or local agency shall not be confidential and shall be made available for public inspection pursuant to the California Public Records Act (Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 6250) of Division 7 of Title 1 of the Government Code):
(A) A record relating to the report, investigation, or findings of any of the following:
(i) An incident involving the discharge of a firearm at a person by a peace officer or custodial officer.
(ii) An incident in which the use of force by a peace officer or custodial officer against a person resulted in death, or in great bodily injury.
(B) (i) Any record relating to an incident in which a sustained finding was made by any law enforcement agency or oversight agency that a peace officer or custodial officer engaged in sexual assault involving a member of the public.
(ii) As used in this subparagraph, “sexual assault” means the commission or attempted initiation of a sexual act with a member of the public by means of force, threat, coercion, extortion, offer of leniency or other official favor, or under the color of authority. For purposes of this definition, the propositioning for or commission of any sexual act while on duty is considered a sexual assault.
(iii) As used in this subparagraph, “member of the public” means any person not employed by the officer’s employing agency and includes any participant in a cadet, explorer, or other youth program affiliated with the agency.
(C) Any record relating to an incident in which a sustained finding was made by any law enforcement agency or oversight agency of dishonesty by a peace officer or custodial officer directly relating to the reporting, investigation, or prosecution of a crime, or directly relating to the reporting of, or investigation of misconduct by, another peace officer or custodial officer, including, but not limited to, any sustained finding of perjury, false statements, filing false reports, destruction, falsifying, or concealing of evidence.
(2) Records that shall be released pursuant to this subdivision include all investigative reports; photographic, audio, and video evidence; transcripts or recordings of interviews; autopsy reports; all materials compiled and presented for review to the district attorney or to any person or body charged with determining whether to file criminal charges against an officer in connection with an incident, or whether the officer’s action was consistent with law and agency policy for purposes of discipline or administrative action, or what discipline to impose or corrective action to take; documents setting forth findings or recommended findings; and copies of disciplinary records relating to the incident, including any letters of intent to impose discipline, any documents reflecting modifications of discipline due to the Skelly or grievance process, and letters indicating final imposition of discipline or other documentation reflecting implementation of corrective action.
(3) A record from a separate and prior investigation or assessment of a separate incident shall not be released unless it is independently subject to disclosure pursuant to this subdivision.
(4) If an investigation or incident involves multiple officers, information about allegations of misconduct by, or the analysis or disposition of an investigation of, an officer shall not be released pursuant to subparagraph (B) or (C) of paragraph (1), unless it relates to a sustained finding against that officer. However, factual information about that action of an officer during an incident, or the statements of an officer about an incident, shall be released if they are relevant to a sustained finding against another officer that is subject to release pursuant to subparagraph (B) or (C) of paragraph (1).
(5) An agency shall redact a record disclosed pursuant to this section only for any of the following purposes:
(A) To remove personal data or information, such as a home address, telephone number, or identities of family members, other than the names and work-related information of peace and custodial officers.
(B) To preserve the anonymity of complainants and witnesses.
(C) To protect confidential medical, financial, or other information of which disclosure is specifically prohibited by federal law or would cause an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy that clearly outweighs the strong public interest in records about misconduct and serious use of force by peace officers and custodial officers.
(D) Where there is a specific, articulable, and particularized reason to believe that disclosure of the record would pose a significant danger to the physical safety of the peace officer, custodial officer, or another person.
(6) Notwithstanding paragraph (5), an agency may redact a record disclosed pursuant to this section, including personal identifying information, where, on the facts of the particular case, the public interest served by not disclosing the information clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the information.
(7) An agency may withhold a record of an incident described in subparagraph (A) of paragraph (1) that is the subject of an active criminal or administrative investigation, in accordance with any of the following:
(A) (i) During an active criminal investigation, disclosure may be delayed for up to 60 days from the date the use of force occurred or until the district attorney determines whether to file criminal charges related to the use of force, whichever occurs sooner. If an agency delays disclosure pursuant to this clause, the agency shall provide, in writing, the specific basis for the agency’s determination that the interest in delaying disclosure clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure. This writing shall include the estimated date for disclosure of the withheld information."


2 people like this
Posted by Wrong
a resident of another community
on Mar 28, 2019 at 12:48 pm

Peter, have you ever questioned the APD or its council about how many complaints in which a citizen alleges dishonesty do they actually sustain the complaint? Same question for California at large. Since I don’t think an APD officer has ever had to fire a gun, the rest of the law seems inapplicable. My point still stands that when citizens question whether police are behaving correctly (which almost always is tantamount to an allegation of dishonesty as a practical matter) there is no additional transparency because the police chief simply says complaint not sustained. Note their definition of sustained means it cannot be a he said/she said but incontrovertible eyewitness or tape or video evidence (and probably not sustained even then because they just turn off the tape or if it’s a third party tape say it doesn’t show the whole story). We’ve all seen this in the news and right here on the Peninsula and right here in a Atherton.


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 28, 2019 at 12:58 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Wrong - Many communities such as Berkeley, have very tight oversight of their police departments so there are plenty of good models to follow. Pick one and propose it to the council.

In my opinion as long as the Town has a value driven Police Chief, as it now does, then his/her good leadership is the best protection of the citizens whom they serve.


4 people like this
Posted by Back to Kansas for me
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 28, 2019 at 1:38 pm

All this noise, and no one can offer any proof that alprs are effective, in Portola valley or elsewhere.

Nor guarantee that data is protected.


11 people like this
Posted by laughing
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Mar 28, 2019 at 5:03 pm

Seriously??? APD cannot find their rear ends with both hands let alone experienced criminals. Save the money...OUTSOURCE to the Sheriff's Office and get real experienced crime fighting Deputies in there. The crooks will stay away just knowing that!!! It will save millions in tax payer money as well. Enough of the Key Stone APD joke!!!!!


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 28, 2019 at 6:00 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Portola Valley is served by the Sheriff. The Town's use of ALPRs does not depend on which agency provides police services.


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

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