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Like Neighbors, Capitola, Calif., May Adopt License Plate Cameras

The City Council will consider a two-year lease of 10 automatic license plate-reading cameras, technology already in use in nearby Santa Cruz and Watsonville. In the latter city, its cameras helped catch a suspect in a Capitola fatal hit-and-run.

Flock Safety license plate reader
Flock Safety
(TNS) — Drivers traveling through Capitola may soon find a few extra watchful eyes on their license plates.

On Thursday night, the Capitola City Council will consider funding the two-year lease of 10 automatic license plate-reading cameras (ALPR), a move that would follow in the footsteps of neighboring Watsonville and Santa Cruz. Watsonville city officials approved a similar two-year contract, for 20 cameras, in May. Then, in December, the Santa Cruz City Council voted to apply for funding to cover 14 cameras leased for two years.

The Flock ALPR System contract would cost Capitola as much as $68,350 over two years and would not include any facial recognition capabilities, according to a police report to the council.

Though Capitola has yet to obtain the license plate readers, its police department reportedly already has benefitted from the technology. In November, Santa Cruz Police Chief Bernie Escalante went before the Santa Cruz City Council to gain buy-in for his department's use of the Flock cameras and highlighted some of those local beneficiaries.

"They ( Capitola police) utilized the city of Watsonville's license plate readers, just about two weeks ago, three weeks ago, which was pivotal in their apprehension of the suspect involved in the fatal hit-and-run collision that occurred in their city in the middle of November," Escalante said in December, referring to the fatal crash involving the death of 70-year-old pedestrian Debra Towne, of Capitola.

Aurora Lopez, of Soquel, was arrested and charged with felony hit and run resulting in death, as well as misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter, in relation to Towne's death. Lopez is scheduled to appear in Santa Cruz County Superior Court on April 12 to set a preliminary hearing in the case.

The Capitola Police Department, which would oversee the cameras, has developed its own internal Policy 426, specific to the equipment's usage. Some features of the policy include a required annual audit, restrictions on the release of the data — no data will be shared for federal immigration enforcement purposes — and mandated officer training on the use of the ALPR system. The cameras' use by officers will be reactive to reported crime, rather than for proactive investigations, according to the report.


What: Capitola City Council meeting.

When: 6 p.m. Thursday.

Where: Council Chambers, 420 Capitola Ave., Capitola.

Watch: Charter Communications Cable TV Channel 8 live,

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