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Police Could Get New Automated License Plate Readers, Capable of Recording Thousands of Images per Hour

City Council asked to authorize $80,000 for technology

Published on Monday, September 14, 2020 | 3:00 am
Image Courtesy Vigilant Solutions Website

The City Council’s Public Safety Committee will consider approving a recommendation authorizing the City Manager to pay up to $80,000 for automatic license plate readers (ALPR).

The city has been transitioning its license plate readers to another vendor. It had been contracting with 3M/PIPS for its plate search vehicle intelligence since 2010, but the company discontinued support of its hardware in 2017.

The city now wants to work with Motorola Solutions and its Vigilant ALPR, which is able to share data with nearby police agencies and sheriff’s departments.

The $80,000 will allow the city to purchase three readers, which will not be compatible with the remaining 11 3M/PIPS cameras currently installed in police patrol cars. 

“The Vigilant ALPR system allows Police Department personnel to be more efficient and effective and deterring and fighting crime. Instant data captures allows field and investigative personnel to act quickly when matches are established,” according to a city staff report. 

License plate readers have been controversial since they came on the scene nearly 20 years ago, and started collecting information on moving and parked cars. Some license plate readers are so advanced they can scan hundreds of license plates in less than a minute.

“Robust policies and procedures are in place to prevent the system and information it gathers from being used inappropriately or differently than its intended purposes. These policies hold Police Department personnel accountable for any misuse and abuse of the system,” according to the report.

However, some activists have expressed concern about the technology. 

According to a 2017 article that appeared in the Pasadena Weekly, local activist Ed Washatka filed a state Public Records Act request for all the times his vehicle was recorded and discovered that his car had been recorded 20 times in a one-year period, 14 times in the daytime and six times at night. From that total, his car was recorded 11 times while parked near the Police Department, City Hall, and the city Job Center on North Lake Avenue. Six scans contained no location information.

Several marches protesting President Donald Trump’s immigration policies started at the Job Center, which is located in the 500 block of North Lake Avenue, near Villa Street.

At that time, Washatka said he was concerned because police are gathering and storing information on people, and average citizens have no idea how it is being sorted or what it is being used for.

The PRA was filed after the state Supreme Court, which ordered LAPD and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to make public millions of license plate numbers that both agencies had collected. 

The Pasadena Police Department has assured local residents that the information that they collected was not being used to build profiles on people, and only retained the information if it was part of an investigation. Otherwise, Pasadena police destroy data after two years.

According to information on the department’s website, local police officers must complete training before operating ALPR equipment or accessing ALPR data.

One of the benefits of using the technology, the report states, is “Potentially dangerous situations can be avoided in real-time, as Police Department personnel will have the ability to immediately summon appropriate resources when vehicle are identified that are connected to violent criminals who endanger the community.”

The Public Safety Committee meeting begins at 4 p.m. to view the meeting please visit,

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