Sounds great, doesn’t it! In fact, a number of residents are already applauding the proposal to make our city safer (BTW, it already is pretty safe) and give the department more tools to use around town, by placing these readers on police cars, polls at street intersections, or wherever deemed needed.
I read the council-manager report on the desire to have more ALPRs, written by the police department, and page after page talked about the benefits of ALPRs to the community. It was not the pro-con reports that used to be presented to the council to help members better understand a measure. This police report talked little of the disadvantages and barely anything about privacy concerns. Also, there was an attachment way at the end of the department’s report of the concerns of the ACLU about the privacy intrusions.
The police estimated the technology for the system would cost $75.000 to $200,000 the first year, and between $50,000 and $150,000 every year afterward. That would amount to $1.5 million in just 10 years. And we don’t know how much each individual ALPRs the police want, so the numbers are still undecided and flexible. We are talking about real money.
I picked up on the affordability issue because, to me, it is not clear if the department is proposing 20 new ALPRs or less, when at the same time the department is short-staffed and needs ore trained officers (at least five ASAP), and the city is considering spending $150 million or so on fiber-to-the-home, and we want new grade crossings so cars do not have to stop- for each train going by, and some want a new gym, and etc., etc.
Well, we can’t do it all.
So that leads me to ask, do we really need ALPRs, and how much of a priority are they?
As reported in the Weekly, "the ACLU report states, ‘The community at large can pay a heavy price if surveillance technology is acquired and deployed without evaluating its impact on civil rights and its potential for misuse. Surveillance can easily intrude upon the individual rights of residents and visitors, perpetuate discriminatory policing, or chill freedom of expression, association, and religion — freedoms that public officials are sworn to protect. As a result, surveillance can erode trust in law enforcement, making it harder for officers and community members to work together to keep the community safe.”
I know we’ve gotten used to cameras following us around – in stores and pharmacies, at stoplight intersections, and some say, “Why worry? I am not doing anything wrong.”
Okay, then let me read all your email messages. Why not? If you’ve done nothing wrong, why object to my reading them?
I think this community has to be very careful about our individual privacies, because once we say scanning is okay, what message have you just sent to the police? It’s okay, so you can scale up your scans of my house and street. Right now the report says police won’t do that. But next year? And what if the entire community is being scanned because police know a bad guy has entered town and is hiding here?
Plus, there’s the factor that minorities may be surveyed more because, well, you know, police say the crime rate can be higher in those areas.
The council members all seemed to favor getting scanners, although there were a few probing questions from Greer Stone and Tom Dubois. We need more challenging questions from the council.
ALPRs will be under discussion for several months. Ask yourself now, do we really need more automated scanners for the police? Is it a priority? Will they diminish our privacy? Will they affect our quality of life? Can this city afford them – or will we soon be taxed for them? We already have two city tax measures on this November’s ballot.