Tiburon to install license plate photograph cameras

Police believe a security camera system could have helped in the investigation of a 75-year-old woman found dead in her home last September. It was Tiburon's fourth homicide in 40 years.
November 18, 2009 11:38:54 PM PST
Photos taken in scenic Tiburon will now include your license plate. The city council voted Wednesday night to install high tech surveillance cameras to snap license plates of everyone who comes and goes. So will it provide stepped up security in a city rattled by a recent murder, or is it an invasion of privacy?

Last September, 75-year-old Tiburon resident Joan Rosenthal was shot and murdered outside of her home. It was only the fourth homicide in Tiburon in 40 years. The case is still unsolved, but Tiburon Police Chief Michael Cronin says new high tech cameras could have helped.

"I do believe very strongly that if we had this system in place at the time, that it would have provided valuable leads in this case," says Cronin.

Wednesday night, the city council voted unanimously to buy surveillance cameras that snap photos of license plates and instantly compare them to a state database for stolen or wanted vehicles. The six cameras will be mounted at the only two entrances into the town -- Paradise Drive and Tiburon Boulevard.

However, some residents at the meeting were against this idea, even though it was explained the cameras will not capture images of occupants inside the vehicle.

"What he is saying is he can survey everyone despite the fact that no crime has occurred, and I consider this to be an invasion of my privacy," says Terri Graham, a Tiburon resident.

"In the legal sense it's not. That's a subtle issue in the law, that your license plate on a car, on a public roadway there is no is no reasonable expectation of privacy," says Cronin.

Privacy was not an issue for other residents who value the cameras which can be used in the case of Amber alerts.

"You walk into Union Square in San Francisco you have your picture taken everywhere you go. There are video cameras everywhere you go. This is not the same thing. This is a simple picture of a license plate," says Bob McDermont, a Tiburon resident.

The police chief says the cameras will be installed within four to six months, making Tiburon the first city in the Bay Area to use this technology.


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