Oakland considering expanding use of license plate readers as crime surges

A move, some say, that could boost the department's ability to solve crimes.

ByTim Johns via KGO logo
Wednesday, October 5, 2022
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Following weeks of violence in Oakland, some councilmembers are calling to expand the police department's use of automated license plate readers.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Following weeks of violence and bloodshed in Oakland, two city councilmembers are looking for ways to stop the growing public safety crisis.

On Tuesday, councilmembers Loren Taylor and Treva Reid, both of whom are running to be mayor, called on their colleagues to expand the Oakland Police Department's use of automated license plate readers.

A move, they say, that could boost the department's ability to solve crimes.

"To ensure that we are able to hold folks accountable when we are dealing with the perception of general lawlessness and lack of accountability in our city," Taylor said.

Taylor says the idea is that by enhancing the use of this technology, officers would be better able to cross reference license plates across several databases to help identify possible criminals.

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But, critics say its effectiveness has shown few results.

"From a statistical perspective, license plate readers are invisible. They're a zero," said Brian Hofer.

Hofer is the chair of Oakland's Privacy Advisory Commission - which advises city leaders.

He says he has serious questions about the councilmembers' proposal - and how an understaffed OPD would find the manpower.

"If you guys don't have the staff, then who's going to be driving the cars? And they had no answer to that," Hofer said.

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Other concerns have also been raised around privacy.

But Taylor says, the city will be respectful of people's rights.

"With data information comes responsibility of taking care of that and not abusing it, and we will absolutely do that. But at the same time, we shouldn't limit the use of tools we know will help keep us safe," he said.

Taylor hopes to see the plan go forward as soon as possible.

But, he says, this is only one step to help improve the safety of all Oaklanders.

"We've got to be all hands on deck in keeping our residents safe, and that's what I'm advocating for," Taylor said.

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