Blogging Bayport Alameda

January 26, 2022

Fool me twice…

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:06 am

Next week the City Council has a shortie agenda item which means that, hopefully, they’ll be able to finish up all the outstanding Council Referrals, but the one item which is on the agenda is around ALPRs aka license plate readers. License plate readers appear to be extremely popular with folks in law enforcement and for folks who see crime and danger around every corner. Based on the correspondence which has so far come in to the City Council it appears the bulk of those folks are Bay Farm residents.

If you haven’t read the staff report, which I highly recommend doing, this time around staff has opted to not mention the fact that they were unable to find reports and studies that demonstrated the efficacy of LPRs. Instead they trotted out the old Obama umbrella via a 2015 framework on how policing can rebuild lost trust within communities to tenuously connect LPRs to this framework.

I mean, I would argue that the first step to building trust would be to have a firm footing for advocating for new toys other than making people “feel” safe. There are no studies which have been offered which can connect LPRs with improved policing outcomes. So this ask is based around asking the City Council and the community to trust the police force that it is (1) needed and (2) won’t be abused. Given the recent history around APD with new toys, one can be forgiven for being skeptical about a “trust me” stance.

This has to be one of my favorite pieces of public correspondence for this item, but the best part is the line after these eight points where the writer commends her own “compelling points” and warns she’ll be at the next meeting to hear rebuttals. What could be more compelling than someone writing that it’s no big deal that there are no studies which show the efficacy of LPRs and that we should simply trust data released by the police departments without any context and believe them when they say they were only able to solve their cases with the help of LPRs.

Don’t you find it compelling that someone heard someone saying they’re going to move and therefore we should spend money on unproven technology because it will make people “feel safer.” I mean, at this point, we really should be looking into the idea of hanging up dummy cameras because the presence will make people “feel safer” and be just as effective as LPRs.

A former City Council candidate also makes an appearance in the correspondence packet, you may remember him running on the “crime is everywhere!!!” platform. Super effective.

This letter is fun too, it says that only people who want to crime will be against LPRs as though there are no other reasons to be against it, this is also someone who values the “feeling safer” at any cost.

Some others

I think what we see here is an amplification of the fear that is stoked in social media like NextDoor and Facebook. I read these letters and I’m not 100% sure if we’re living in the same town. Well most come from Bay Farm so….you know….

I know there are probably three votes on the Council to approve these toys so there’s no stopping this runaway train. I think there should be clear expectations in place to understand how these LPRs are working and when, and how, they “help” in solving a case. It would be good if a portion of the budget can be spent to collect data in real time while cases are being solved to analyze how helpful LPRs are in closing cases. Because, realistically, how is preventing crime even going to be measured because that’s really what people want, right? To prevent crime. But it’s not clear that any public safety agency has ever figured out how to, correctly, define and collect that data. LPRs are not the magic bullet that every one in these letters think they are and, certainly, it’s crucial to set expectations for the technology to be able to properly assess if the newfound “safety” felt by folks once the LPRs are installed is earned or just a placebo.


  1. Interesting that the statistically improbable phrase “[…] able to safely walk, drive or shop all over town, day or night, without fear of being assaulted in your own driveway” shows up in a couple of the excerpts you grabbed. I wonder which local citizen’s committee template that comes from?

    Comment by Jim Meyer — January 26, 2022 @ 7:27 am

  2. If there is no evidence that license plate readers (ALPRs) help solve crimes better than traditional methods, spending money on them is just a waste of taxpayer dollars. City purchases – whether for fire trucks, road maintenance, or law enforcement tools – are not meant to be made frivolously or without due diligence.

    The idea of even more universal and unsupervised surveillance of civilians without *any* benefits (such as a demonstrated reduction in crime or an increase in criminal convictions) is a crazy way to subvert the Fourth Amendment to our US Constitution:

    “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not
    be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place
    to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

    If people want to feel more “secure” in and around Alameda, perhaps we could pass out pacifiers, cuddly stuffed animals, and baby blankets for people to clutch instead of their pearls…

    Comment by Jon Spangler — January 30, 2022 @ 4:52 pm

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