IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Monterey, Calif., PD Wants ALPR. Will Residents Agree?

The Monterey Police Department is looking for resident input on a plan to install license plate cameras to assist with crime investigations. The controversial technology has seen broad U.S. adoption amid police staffing challenges.

A view of Franklin Street in downtown Monterey, Calif.
Shutterstock/Albert Pego
(TNS) — The Monterey Police Department is looking to install license plate cameras in the city to assist with crime investigations and held the first community meeting recently to share the details of the cameras and allow the public to ask questions and share concerns.

There were about a dozen people in attendance and a few on the video platform Zoom at Monday’s meeting at City Hall.

Gabe Kastor, a patrol officer, gave the presentation detailing why the police would like the cameras installed, how it will help them with crimes and thefts and what the technology will do, and who has access to the information.

The Automated License Plate Recognition cameras will sit on top of light posts and traffic lights about 10 to 12 feet in the air and take photos at an angle of the backs of vehicles. The software can gather information about the cars like the make, model and license plate. It alerts police when the vehicle matches the description of cars involved in crimes. Kaster said they are mainly thinking about stolen vehicles, and mass retail theft where groups of people steal several items at once and run away.

“It’s not facial recognition, it’s not tied to personal identifying information, and it’s not used for traffic enforcement,” Kaster said. “The data is not stored beyond 30 days, and automatically deletes every 30 days unless that vehicle is flagged for an investigative purpose.”

Police will also only be able to access the system for investigative purposes. They will have to be working on a crime or looking for a lead on a crime to use the software and not just to “check-up” on a car or individual, according to police.

“There are a lot of state legislative mandates that go along with public agencies that operate ALPR systems. These are the rules we have to follow. And these rules are in place for a reason,” Kaster said.

The Police Department is proposing 35 cameras in 32 locations, from David Avenue to Casanova Avenue. They have not chosen a provider yet, but Flock Safety currently provides cameras to police in Seaside, Pacific Grove, and recently Marina. Flock also provides body cameras for those cities and Monterey, so Kaster said they have gotten support from other police stations to get the cameras installed.

Kaster gave an example of a crime that occurred recently when Santa Cruz police alerted Pacific Grove that a stolen vehicle was headed to their city. From there, PG police were able to alert the Monterey police.

“If we had the cameras installed here, we would have gotten an alert ourselves,” Kaster said. “It’s more streamlined and helps us share information across departments.”

The public feedback was mixed, with a few people sharing their support for the cameras and helping the police work faster, while others brought up their concerns.

“I live on the border of Seaside and Monterey, and I can tell you years ago we had all kinds of problems with theft gangs coming over the border and through the back parks to Seaside, so these cameras are new ways that we can track them all the way through,” said Esther Malkin, a Monterey resident.

One Monterey resident said the city attorney has just as much of an active role in set-up and paperwork on the cameras as Police Chief Dave Hober, to ensure all the city’s rules and regulations are being followed.

Another suggested the police create an ordinance specifically for the cameras that would lay out exactly what can and cannot be done with the technology.

The American Civil Liberties Union has spoken out nationally against the use of these cameras and two members of the local chapter shared concerns about the technology during the Monday meeting.

“This infringes on our Fourth Amendment privacy rights and breaks other laws that are supposed to protect us from police overreach,” said Mibs McCarthy, with the Monterey County ACLU. The cameras “don’t reduce crime, and we can better spend our money to invest on things like public health care, high-quality education and violence intervention programs.”

Hector Soliman, a representative from Flock, said the vehicle images are the only thing that can be captured with the cameras and they cannot pick up audio or be upgraded to do so.

“There’s no personal identifiable information in the data that’s captured. So it’s only images of the backs of vehicles and their license plates. We don’t have any personally identifiable information within Flock, there’s no DMV records or third-party databases.”

The police chief also shared that as a resident of Monterey he would ensure civil liberties are protected.

“There’s a lot of discussion of privacy, and I know I don’t like the government looking at what I’m doing either,” Hober said. “The only time the government will be looking at these things is for an official purpose. There’s validity to officers misusing the technology, but I want to see what we can learn and I want to do it right.”

The next community meeting will be held 6 p.m. Feb. 8, at Monterey City Hall, 580 Pacific St.

©2024 MediaNews Group, Inc, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.