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City Council Approves Purchase of More Automatic License Plate Readers

Published on Monday, January 24, 2022 | 7:12 pm
Images of Pasadena Police automatic license plate reader cameras and monitor shown deployed on a Pasadena patrol car.

The City Council approved spending $165,528 on automatic license plate readers (ALPRs) as the city continues to amp up safety measures to deal with recent shootings.

The system uses high-speed cameras and sophisticated software to capture and convert license plate numbers into data that can immediately be compared with information in other databases.

The system can instantaneously identify a vehicle’s geographic location and the date and time the image was recorded. Police say license plate readers have helped police recover thousands of stolen vehicles.

However, the system also indiscriminately collects information on millions of ordinary people going about their day-to-day business, which has some concerns.

“License plate readers managed properly and used within the confines of the First Amendment of the US Constitution and other limiting judicial requirements related to privacy have a legitimate role in helping to provide important information to keep our community safe,” said City Councilmember John Kennedy. “License plate readers are a tool in policing and simply must be managed well to guard against abuse.”

In 2020, the city spent $80,000 on three new automated license plate readers.

According to the ACLU, Vigilant, the company from which the city will purchase the cameras, sells information to CLEAR, a portal to billions of pieces of personal information.

The ACLU described CLEAR, which is a software system used by law enforcement to locate a subject’s most recent address and phone information, as well as who their associates are, as a “gateway for ICE to access the automated license plate reader database run by Vigilant.”

Critics expressed concerns on Monday about the item.

In 2015 state lawmakers increased privacy protections for drivers and established strict rules including who has access to the information collected by automatic license plate readers and how police can use it.

But in 2020, the state auditor revealed that a review of ALPR policies in the Los Angeles, Fresno, Marin and Sacramento police departments revealed some troublesome results.

“The agencies we reviewed either did not have ALPR policies or their policies were deficient, and they had not implemented sufficient safeguards. For example, none had audited searches of the ALPR images by their staff and thus had no assurance that the searches were appropriate. Furthermore, three of the four agencies have shared their ALPR images widely, without considering whether the entities receiving them have a right to and need for the images.”

The additional ALPRs would be the latest in the Pasadena Police Department’s toolkit to fight a recent increase in violence.

The Pasadena Police Department has responded to more than 300 calls for service from people reporting hearing shots being fired, and an additional 400 incidents of gun-related crimes over the past two years.

Close to 700 firearms have been seized by police officials.

On Friday, a 14-year old Pasadena boy shot in the head as he rode as a passenger in a car on Jan. 18 died. A Pasadena man has been arrested and charged with the boy’s murder. Police said the shooting was connected to a shooting last Sunday near Villa Parke.

In November, police officers engaged in a gun battle with a man in an East Pasadena neighborhood. The incident was captured on body-worn cameras, RING doorbells and police cruiser footage.

Late last year, two people were fatally shot in Pasadena during an increase in gun violence.

Jamal Patterson was fatally shot in late October on Summit Avenue and died at Huntington hospital after being taken off life-support.

Patterson was wounded along with another 24-year-old man, but few details were available regarding the circumstances of the attack.

Iran Moreno was fatally shot just after 6 p.m. on Nov. 20 in the 900 block of North Raymond Avenue. According to police, the 13-year old boy was killed by a stray bullet while playing video games in his home.

The target and motive for the shooting remain unknown.

In early October, the City Council approved a $640,000, three-year contract for ShotSpotter technology that uses microphones and sensors in certain neighborhoods to determine the location of gunshots.

After the system determines shots have been fired it alerts police in a matter of seconds.

Late last month, a police spokesperson told Pasadena Now that the gunshot triangulation software would be deployed later this month.

The city is set to consider funding home security video cameras in high crime areas and placing video cameras in Villa Parke to further enhance the ability of the police to combat gun violence.

The idea was originally put forth by Councilmember Tyron Hampton, who said the cameras would hopefully help to deter criminals and give residents another tool to use in conjunction with calling the police department when reporting incidents.

“This would hopefully help to deter anyone who is thinking of causing problems/committing crimes in Pasadena because having more camera footage available would make it more likely that they would be arrested,” Hampton said in an email Wednesday.

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