Alameda considers license plate readers at all entry points

ALAMEDA, Calif. (KGO) -- They could become the newest feature in the Webster Tube that connects Oakland with Alameda -- license plate readers.

"This is about pushing the needle back and trying to reduce a recent spike in property crimes," explained Alameda Police Chief Paul Rolleri, who says crime went up 12 percent this past year, two-thirds of that driven by burglaries, car break-ins and robberies.

Now, Rolleri wants his city to spend $500,000 for 13 fixed license plate readers, mounted on the major bridges and tunnels that lead on and off the island.

"This is not just for crimes that are committed in Alameda," said Rolleri. "It could be a stolen vehicle that was stolen in another city somewhere. And then that car, or that license plate, comes into Alameda and we will be alerted."

Rolleri points to other cities like Piedmont, which claims a 34 percent reduction in property crimes since license plate readers were installed in 2014.

Alameda already has mobile readers on four of its patrol cars, but spotting suspect vehicles with these can be hit or miss.

"We're seeing glass broken on the streets everyday," said resident Heather Hodges. "So I think we should all get behind and support this for the sake of our community."

"We see this as kind of a virtual surveillance wall between Alameda and Oakland," said Brian Hofer, a member of the Oakland Privacy Commission, who worries the readers could amount to high-tech profiling.

"It's been historically true that 99.97 percent of all scans are never connected to any criminal wrongdoing, so we're collecting data on people not involved in a crime," said Hofer. "Why are we doing that? Why are we retaining that? Who has access to it?"

Some worry Alameda might share its license plate data with federal immigration officials.

"We do not share our license plate data with ICE," said Chief Rolleri. "It has been specifically turned off."

The Alameda City Council will take up the issue Tuesday evening at 7 p.m.
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