San Jose expecting more fixed license plate cameras; city, police address privacy concerns

Amanda del Castillo Image
Thursday, August 25, 2022
Concerns addressed as more license plate cameras expected in SJ
San Jose city officials hosted a webinar on Wednesday to provide details regarding privacy issues concerning new license plate cameras.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- The City of San Jose and its police department are putting a spotlight on license plate readers. Stationery cameras will be going up at intersections around the city in an effort to improve traffic and public safety.

However, some residents are raising questions about privacy. To address those concerns, officials hosted an informational webinar on Wednesday to provide the public with details.

The webinar came after another deadly day for the city's roadways. A motorcyclist was killed in a crash at Moorpark Avenue and South Monroe Street.

According to police, the accident marked the city's 42nd fatal collision and the 44th traffic death of 2022- on record pace.

SJPD also issued a 'Delayed Traffic Fatality' release which then marked the 43rd fatal collision, and the 45th traffic death of 2022.

RELATED: Morning fatal collision reported in SJ after SUV crashes into tree; Marks 43rd traffic death in city

The growing list of crash victims is part of a push, a pilot program to add traffic safety cameras across the community.

SJPD, the city's digital privacy officer, and its Department of Transportation held a Wednesday evening webinar, sharing insight on the installation of Automated License Plate Readers (ALPR).

Deputy City Manager Rob Lloyd announced, "We're here because this is a very important topic for us and it's important that we get this right long-term."

Currently, ALPRs have only been installed at Monterey Road and Curtner Avenue, which officials explained was the site of three traffic fatalities in 2021. The suspects in those cases have yet to be identified.

RELATED: SJ traffic deaths near record levels for 2021, families and officials address improvements

As drivers approach the intersection, signs alert drivers about the devices.

"Get them, get them," Bay Area resident Cuong Nguyen told ABC7 News. "Because, you know, you have to be careful. I don't know what is your hurry to go home, or hurry to go. But you need to be concerned about all the people's life as well."

On Wednesday, officials explained among expected tasks, ALPRs will check plates to help identify stolen vehicles, assist in Amber and Silver Alert response, and deter reckless driving.

The city said it plans to release annual reports to the public that will detail use, accuracy and effectiveness.

"We are in a pilot testing phase for these stationery cameras," the city's Digital Privacy Officer, Albert Gehami said. "And we're learning just as much as you all are about how valuable they are to the city."

RELATED: Dangerous San Jose intersection to see safety upgrade after fatal hit-and-runs

San Jose city leaders unanimously voted to take action and to increase safety at the dangerous intersection of Monterey Road and Curtner Avenue.

SJPD revealed that just this week, the cameras at Monterey Road and Curtner Avenue assisted in two separate active cases.

During the webinar, the panel received dozens of questions about privacy.

The cameras will not monitor or profile people, investigate immigration status or view private spaces.

Access to collected data will be limited to trained SJPD staff, neighboring enforcement agencies and city employees in charge of audit inspection.

Federal law enforcement, out-of-state agencies and vendors will not be allowed access.

"If you are a good citizen, what do you have to worry about," Nguyen said. "Nothing to worry about!"

SJPD said up to 150 additional fixed cameras will eventually be installed around the city. The next set will go up in two to three months.

While the exact location hasn't been finalized, they plan to target an area with high gun related and violent crime.

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