Should Portola Valley allow deputies to deploy license-plate-reading cameras? | Town Square | Almanac Online |

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Should Portola Valley allow deputies to deploy license-plate-reading cameras?

Original post made on Oct 21, 2014

In June, sheriff's deputies asked Portola Valley for permission to place license plate reading cameras in town and were denied pending a Town Council discussion with law enforcement authorities. That discussion is set for Wednesday evening, Oct. 22.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, October 21, 2014, 10:41 AM

Comments (25)

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Posted by 4th amendment
a resident of Woodside: Family Farm/Hidden Valley
on Oct 21, 2014 at 12:26 pm

"In Maryland in 2012, only 0.2 percent of the total number of plates read were hits; of those, 97 percent were for vehicle registration or smog inspection problems, the ACLU says."

Protect and Serve?

The risk of this data being misused (just google law enforcement misuse of private data, or similar) far outweighs any public benefit.

Except it does control that radically criminal element of smog miscreants....


"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects..."




2 people like this
Posted by PV Resident
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Oct 21, 2014 at 12:54 pm

I fully understand that our constitutional rights must be protected. However, I don't think I will be thinking of my rights if someone has or is breaking into my home. I have a high regard for the SMC Sheriff's Department and would like to hear its position. Right now, I would feel safer with the cameras than without them if they help catch the criminals.


1 person likes this
Posted by Leslie
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Oct 21, 2014 at 1:13 pm

The phrase 'the thin end of the wedge' comes to mind.


Like this comment
Posted by 4th amendment
a resident of Woodside: Family Farm/Hidden Valley
on Oct 21, 2014 at 1:14 pm

"However, I don't think I will be thinking of my rights if someone has or is breaking into my home."

Despite all evidence showing that license plate readers will not prevent any such break-in?

"...IF they help catch the criminals." That's a mighty big IF that you are using to sacrifice the constitutional freedoms for whom so many have fought and died.

Even so, I don't think your FEAR should violate any other American's constitutional rights. Ask ol' Ben...

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 21, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Driving in public with a state issued license plate is a privilege not a right and does not confer any right of privacy.

The focus should be on the proper use of this data not on its acquisition .


3 people like this
Posted by Louise68
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 21, 2014 at 3:30 pm

We do not need any of this police-state surveillance anywhere. We need an end to the creeping militarism and police-state garbage that is being foisted on us by tyrants who want only more and more and more control over everyone. There is no such thing to them as "enough".

Stop this garbage -- NOW.

"4th amendment" --
Thank you for those distressing facts, and for your prinicipled opposition to the use of license-plate readers.

[Portion removed. Please comment on the topic, not on other posters.]

Besides -- these license-plate readers are not necessary, and thus a waste of taxpayer money. "4th amendment" has given the unpleasant facts about how useless they are in combating crime, and how much they will be abused.


1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 21, 2014 at 3:32 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

[Portion removed. It's a comment on a post that has been removed.]

- clearly you did not understand my posting:

"The focus should be on the proper use of this data not on its acquisition ."


2 people like this
Posted by Memories
a resident of another community
on Oct 21, 2014 at 6:39 pm

No. No. No.


3 people like this
Posted by Jasmine
a resident of another community
on Oct 22, 2014 at 12:37 am

No, Nope, Never!


3 people like this
Posted by PV neighbor
a resident of Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on Oct 22, 2014 at 6:13 am

We should absolutely NOT agree to yet another illegal data collection attempt from the police. Consider that the Supreme Court ruled few years ago that police is not here to protect and serve the citizens, but to uphold the laws (whether they are corrupt or not) - thus daily ruthless killings of innocent citizens by the police are perfectly in line with that ruling (Missouri being just the latest example). Consider that these laws are written by the same criminals who instituted torture( Bush), massive illegal spying programs on US citizens(still ongoing!), who removed the right to due process for US citizens (Obama), who legalized use of armed drones to kill Americans (Obama), who proposed use of deadly viruses as a policy tool to decrease planet population and kill off "undesirable" segments of the population (Cheney), would we want to give more power to them?
Note that the police here used the plate scanners without the permission of the town hall at first - another example of arrogance and disrespect for the laws that they are supposed to uphold. We should ban that police force from the township and start our own militia who will defend us and our interests, instead of serving criminals.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 22, 2014 at 7:27 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

We drive our cars on public roads and, as a condition of that use, we must have license plates on our cars. Since the car is in a public space anybody can take photographs of our car and note the date, time and location.

And yet many of the above posters claim that the people charged with providing public safety should uniquely be denied the ability to take such pictures - that is difficult for me to understand.

Every day we see how video camera footage, much of it privately owned, is used to solve crimes and we have literally no restrictions on the use of these mostly private video cameras.

And yet many of the above posters claim that the people charged with providing public safety should uniquely be denied the ability to take such videos - that is difficult for me to understand.


5 people like this
Posted by Let me explain
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 22, 2014 at 7:43 am

Peter, let me take a stab at trying to explain what is difficult for you to understand.

First, just because it may be currently legal to do something does not imply it's inappropriate for a local municipality to decide not to do it, based on the wishes of its constituents. Besides automatic license plate readers, here are some other examples of legal enforcement activities many of our local communities have declined to adopt: red light cameras, and tasers/stun guns.

Second, when the laws were enacted or the cases decided that deemed taking a picture of a license plate in a public space legitimate, they were done in an era in which the available technology was dramatically different than the automatic readers available today. They were decided when the age-old "security vs. privacy/liberty" tradeoff had a very different scale balance than it does today.

The law evolves over time as things change. Technology and society are two major factors of change in the preceding sentence. Segregation and slavery were once legal. Abortion and the sale of alcohol were once illegal. Obviously our laws cannot evolve if the response to society questioning their current reach is it's legal, end of story.

The same logic applying to adopting the license plate readers could be used to justify the police buying drones to videofeed our homes at a certain distance in the sky.

Would this help fight crime? Sure, in some cases, it would, and I suppose one comeback to a naysayer would be if you don't like it, buy your own island somewhere. Many citizens would feel that the price paid for the increased crime fighting effectiveness is just too high. It's also a legitimate concern with automatic license plate readers.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 22, 2014 at 7:50 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

So if there is an individual police officer who has a good enough memory to capture license plate numbers in his mind and compare them to a memorized list of "hot' plates in his mind then that officer should be fired?


3 people like this
Posted by Let me explain
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 22, 2014 at 7:55 am

No, of course not, and you know that's not what I've claimed. A police officer remembering or even taking a manual photo of a plate, and comparing to a written list let alone a memorized list, is vastly different than a computerized plate capturing every car that goes by.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 22, 2014 at 8:06 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I know great police officers who actually "capturing every car that goes by."

Again, I believe the focus should be on controlling how the data is used rather than how it is acquired.

Last night the MPFPD Board established rules that will govern the use of a drone that will be purchased by the Fire District. Clearly a drone will provide superb situational awareness during fire suppression and emergency activities from a perspective that is not currently available. The Board specified that the drone could only be used in predefined roles, that all drone use would be publicly noticed after it had occurred and that the drone would not be used for or by other organizations. We made these decisions after soliciting public input and receiving about a dozen responses but no member of the public appeared at our meeting to add their comments.


Like this comment
Posted by content is king
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 22, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Mr Carpenter - for what duration is the data kept?


3 people like this
Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Oct 22, 2014 at 2:15 pm

"The most cynical interpretation of any government action invariably turns out to be the most accurate."

"Beware the tiger on the path you least expect."

Yes, as some of you point out, there is indeed creeping police militarization throughout the US. Yes, we are gradually losing our Constitutionally protected rights -- (ironically) including with the assistance of the US Supreme Court -- but slowly enough so that we don't rise up in collective anger to stop it. Yes, there is ever greater surveillance and loss of individual freedoms. And there are many among us who justify this and explain it away.

I urge us all to re-read Orwell's "1984" which was published in 1949. Many people then assumed it to be a science-fictional description of the Communist world, especially the Soviet Union. We now understand that it was our own Western evolving world -- our culture -- that Orwell was describing.

It is my most pessimistic perception that the planet, Western and Non-Western, is not drifting toward greater Democracy. It is, instead, drifting toward greater Authoritarianism. This is made possible because there are so many of us willing -- wittingly or unwittingly -- to help it along. Most recently we have blamed it all on "The War on Terrorism." And, as we all know, in war-time many freedoms are "temporarily" suspended. Along with many others, I predict that the War on Terrorism will be a permanent war with no end. This license-plate reading discussion is a microcosm of that tectonic, paradigmatic drift.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 22, 2014 at 2:28 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Mr Carpenter - for what duration is the data kept?"

That has not yet been decided. In some cases the data might be extremely useful for post incident learning - what mistakes were made, how could the situation be approached differently, etc. The property owner may want it for insurance purposes or in applying for a rebuilding permit.

In any case EVERY use will be publicly noticed and anyone concerned about a particular incident can make their concerns on retention known to the Fire Chief and your elected Directors.


3 people like this
Posted by Person of Interest
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Oct 22, 2014 at 7:38 pm

What is happening to the Portola Valley and for that matter the California that I grew up in? Four generations born and raised and we would never have this discussion or even entertain the notion regarding big brother. It's time to leave. Change the name to "Portolagrad" it was a small rural town in the State of California. With gentrification complete, crime moves in, now it's time to surrender more of your personal freedom. Just another province in the CSSR. You know what is said about those that don't understand history. Wake up! All of you are already under house arrest.


2 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 23, 2014 at 1:42 pm

What are all these people out doing that don't want their license plate recorded?


3 people like this
Posted by 4th amendment
a resident of Woodside: Family Farm/Hidden Valley
on Oct 23, 2014 at 1:55 pm

"What are all these people out doing that don't want their license plate recorded?"

The same things you are doing. Your son is doing. Your daughter is doing. Well, maybe your son didn't just smile at a cop the way your daughter did, and the cop now wants to know who she is, and maybe, just maybe keep tabs on her, you know, for safety.

Or your son, who happens to be dating a woman who made the mistake of previously dating a cop, who now feels he needs to check out who she is dating. Think this doesn't happen? Abuse of private data by law enforcement? Google it. This was posted by the NYT, only NINETEEN HOURS ago Web Link

There is also the security aspect in these days of data breaches.

There is NO need to acquire this data, there is no need to keep this data.

"In Maryland in 2012, only 0.2 percent of the total number of plates read were hits; of those, 97 percent were for vehicle registration or smog inspection problems, the ACLU says."

Does PV have a registration problem causing undue harm to the populace? A smog check problem?

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

Stand up for the Americans who have lost their lives defending the Constitution - "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects..."


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 23, 2014 at 6:02 pm

Since the Supreme Court long ago established that NONE of us has ANY expectation of privacy while in public there is simply no Constitutional rights violations going on. So, as Peter has pointed out, we should be discussing how long this information is retained and how it is controlled.


3 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 23, 2014 at 6:12 pm

Bob - We may be on different planets politically and so attempts at communication would be like a broken pencil ... pointless.

But I'll try.

Here is a general statement: Cameras run by police are chilling to the sense of living in a free country. The literature as well as historical accounts are long on what these baby steps lead to. Just because the police can do something does not mean they should do that thing.

This country was founded as government by the people, for the people and of the people. The people are sovereign, a concept very, very difficult for people actually in government to understand and accept. Sovereignty means high privileges and rights, including the right to be left alone.

Obviously, people like Obama and his ilk -- officials who consider whistle-blowers criminals -- and organizations with too much power, like the CIA and the NSA, don't get this. Worse, they understand our sovereignty but fundamentally disrespect it and work assiduously to undermine it.

Is there a worse attitude for an elected official? Obama talked about transparency before he was elected, and then proceeded to dismantle his promise when the first opportunity came along. He drank the Koolaid apparently, from the very get go. Shocking, it was shocking and incredibly disappointing, but now we know that it was just his way. Fabricate, fabricate, fabricate until you get the position, and then join the corrupt insiders. And he's still at it.

There are ways to find criminals that do not jeopardize the privacy of the rest of us. The challenge is to get the government types to appreciate the limits of their power, the sovereignty of the public, and open their eyes and their minds and stop already with their blinkered views of reality.


2 people like this
Posted by enough
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 23, 2014 at 8:42 pm

No more cameras. No more data collection just waiting to be abused.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Oct 24, 2014 at 1:37 pm

No. No. No. Only exception - keep an eye on Sheriff Munks.


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