Blogging Bayport Alameda

January 7, 2020

Circling back

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:07 am

I always like to see issues that were put on hold for some reason or the other actually make its way back to a policy body.  It’s so easy to kick the can down the road and let another City Council tackle an issue that it’s refreshing when we see an elected official say, “hey remember this thing that we said we were going to do?  Maybe we should do it.”

Case in point, at the first City Council meeting of the year, Vice Mayor John Knox White has a Council Referral about the license plate readers that were placed on hold in 2018.

From the Council Referral:

Provide direction to the City Manager, City Attorney and City Clerk to develop a recommendation on an Automated License Plate Readers (ALPR) program in Alameda.

In 2018, the Alameda City Council put on hold a request from the Police Department for ALPRs until a sanctuary city-related privacy policy was developed. Having adopted an expanded policy and provided direction for the creation of an ordinance on privacy and surveillance on December 17, it is appropriate to check in with the City Council to identify the parameters under which an ALPR project might possibly move forward for consideration.

This referral seeks Council direction to staff to compile and share with the Council:

  • The development of a well-researched report on the likely impact of ALPRs on crime, police resources, including unintended changes in enforcement focus.
    • The report should include:
      • Effectiveness in reducing auto theft, auto recovery, reduction in property crime, reduction in Class I crimes
      • Error rates and mis-identification of vehicles
      • Areas where ALPRs will not support enforcement
    • The report should be based on independent studies. News articles, vendor reports and anecdotal statements from proponents or opponents should not be used.
  • Provide a report compliant with San Francisco’s surveillance ordinance, as the current surveillance ordinance is not adopted.
  • Options for addressing data collection and warehousing, ranging from not sharing any data to regional sharing compliant with the privacy policy/ordinance.
  • The report should include information on the level of interest of Alameda Police Department leadership in proceeding under each of the identified scenarios.
  • Additional Council direction provided at the meeting.

It’s a good step forward to both addressing concerns about the efficacy of ALPRs but also examining if it would be a useful tool for our already stretched police department particularly around the issue of property crime.

The generated reports will be an objective source of information for both the community and the City Council to make an informed decision about which direction this community should take around this technology.


  1. During the holidays an Alameda parent was violently attacked outside Chase Bank at South Shore mid-day on a Sunday by attackers who sped off in a car. Has APD issued any statement re whether, if an LPR were available, this would have been an instance in which an LPR would have likely been helpful in identifying the vehicle? (I suppose if the idea was to put LPRs at bridges/tube, the answer would depend in part on whether the car entered and or left Alameda around the time of the attack).

    Comment by MP — January 7, 2020 @ 7:53 am

    • Police vehicles are already equipped with LPRs. Having additional LPRs would not identify the vehicle involved – the vehicle’s license plate would have to be confirmed first, and then the LPRs could maybe assist with identifying their whereabouts.

      Comment by JRB — January 7, 2020 @ 8:40 am

  2. Wow it’s inconceivable that sworn law enforcement and elected government officials might misuse or abuse its power of surveillance and duty to abide by applicable laws, to spy on private citizens for political or personal gain and then cover it up, right? And once they have cameras, (like in the Epstein case) they would never hide actual camera footage to illegally protect anyone would they? Tell me that would never happen!

    Comment by Nowyouknow — January 7, 2020 @ 9:14 am

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