Los Altos Hills deploys automatic license plate readers; Residents can opt out – CBS San Francisco

LOS ALTOS HILLS (CBS SF) — A Bay Area city is moving forward with the installation of automatic license plate readers (ALPR), in hopes of combating and preventing crime.

There are currently 10 LPRs that are operational in Los Altos Hills, with another 30 expected to be operational by February, according to a city management analyst.

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They are placed at every street entrance in Los Altos Hills, as well as many other streets in the city, the management analyst explains. They operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office will be able to use LPRs as tools to investigate crimes.

“We hope it will keep people safe, we hope it will deter people from committing crimes in our city,” said resident Rajiv Bhateja. “We have very few burglaries per year, but we have very few homes.”

Bhateja has been a big proponent of the idea for several years and helped introduce it to city leaders.

“Our community tends to be what we call a target-rich environment,” he said. “I think if we can make our city and the world a little safer, that’s a good thing for everyone.”

Los Altos Hills partnered with Flock Safety to implement the cameras.

“Our technology is designed to capture objective evidence. We take pictures of the back of a car as it drives by, from there we use machine learning to identify what kind of car it was – make, model, color – unique features like bumper stickers, roof racks, spare wheels, and also most importantly, identifying the license plate itself,” said Josh Thomas of Flock Safety. “They indiscriminately capture objective vehicle data.”

Some residents have expressed concerns about privacy.

“I’m not convinced that we really have a problem. I think it’s an invasion of my privacy,” said a Los Altos Hills resident who did not want to be identified. “I’m just very concerned about privacy issues, and I also have concerns about racial profiling.”

Thomas explained that their technology only captures still photos of rear license plates and vehicle features.

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“We capture vehicle information. Not people. There is no facial recognition. We don’t collect anything on humans. It’s just the back of a car – and in fact, we don’t even know who’s driving the car.

However, Los Altos Hills residents will have the option to opt out. They can submit an online form, proving that their vehicles are registered to an address in Los Altos Hills, and then the system will not record any data on those vehicles.

Bhateja believes in LPRs.

“It’s only supposed to take pictures of rear license plates, and only still pictures. So it can’t be used for movement violations, for speeding, for stop signs, and all that. that,” he said. “The sheriff, when accessing the information, must have a case number. They must have an investigative reason as to why they are accessing this data.

According to the city, LPR cameras have three major advantages:
• The physical presence of a camera and accompanying signage indicating that a recording is in progress can limit crime in the first place.
• After a crime has been committed, the data that has been recorded can provide law enforcement with investigative leads.
• Cameras have the ability to send instant notifications to law enforcement when a vehicle of interest has been identified.

A spokesperson for the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office provided KPIX 5 with the following statement:
“The Sheriff’s Office is pleased to support the City of Los Altos Hills in implementing License Plate Readers (LPRs). LPRs will help the sheriff’s office use technology to improve prevention and solve crime. We are committed to using all available resources to improve the safety and security of residents of the City of Los Altos Hills.

Los Altos Hills isn’t the first Bay Area municipality to use Flock’s technology.

“All over the Bay Area,” Thomas said. “Morgan Hill, Benicia, Vallejo, Colma – all along the peninsula, North Bay, East Bay.”

Los Altos Hills residents who wish to retire may do so here.

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