The LCA Security Committee has completed its exploration into the use of automatic license plate readers (ALPRs) to deter home burglaries in the Ladera community. The exploration included (1) consultations with local law enforcement officers; (2) research into available technologies and vendors and (3) connecting with other local communities who have also implemented cameras.
The Committee specifically sought to understand how manufacturers have addressed community concerns around security and privacy protection prior to making a recommendation. Based on all the information we received during exploration (full context below), the recommendation from the Security Committee is to proceed with a twelve month pilot to be funded from the existing LCA budget. The twelve month pilot will provide sufficient time to assess the efficacy of the cameras and impact on the community, before recommitting to another lease period.
The importance of security and crime deterrence has become a topic of discussion and policy change in Bay Area communities such as Ladera. Communities have chosen a range of directions, one of which is to collect photographic data on cars entering and leaving the community because the technology is relatively inexpensive but attains a high deterrence value.
Out of a desire to proactively deter home burglaries and provide a safe community for the residents of Ladera, the Ladera Community Association recently formed a Security Committee to explore options for installing automatic license plate readers at Ladera’s two entrances. ALPRs have been considered in the past, however, the technology has evolved considerably while processes to control data and privacy have also matured prompting the committee to re-examine this as a possible deterrent.The Security Committee recommends that LCA move forward with a pilot program to test two ALPR cameras capable of evaluating rear license plates at both entrances to Ladera.
The ALPRs will gather data associated with vehicle license plates that can be shared with the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Offices in order to identify stolen and wanted vehicles, recover stolen property and gather crime related information.
According to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s office, ALPRs can benefit communities in several ways:
The visible and physical presence of a camera - along with accompanying street signs - can deter crime from occurring in the first place.
After a crime has occurred, the recorded data can give law enforcement leads for investigations.
The cameras have the ability to send instant notifications to law enforcement when a vehicle of interest has been identified.
About the ALPRs
The LCA will lease two ALPR cameras from Flock Safety, the manufacturer preferred by San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office. Communities around the Bay Area including Los Altos Hills, Woodside, Menlo Park and San Carlos have also implemented Flock ALPRs.
The Flock ALPR captures and stores digital images of license plates, and uses character recognition to identify and store plate characters. Most ALPR technologies capture license plate data only, but the Flock system also captures make, model, and color of the car and date, time and location of the image. The system creates a searchable computerized database resulting from the cameras. The cameras are motion activated, capture rear license plate data, and are solar powered. Importantly, Flock systems enable residents to “opt out” of having their vehicle information recorded by the ALPRs (for more information see Opting Out below).
Data Access and Usage
Flock Safety technology integrates with the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), to provide alerts to dispatch and patrol officers on vehicle license plates associated with outstanding warrants, missing persons, and stolen vehicles. Since stolen vehicles are often used to perpetuate more crime, and the inhabitants of those vehicles are more likely to have been involved in violent crime, a stop of a stolen vehicle as a result of an alert disrupts the crime cycle by removing criminal transportation and arresting suspects.
Privacy and Security
These links to the Flock Security website provide additional details around the company’s approach to maintaining data privacy and security:
Flock Security: Protecting Privacy
For more information on how the manufacturer stores and retains data, provides access to data, and protects the privacy of residents.
Flock Security: Privacy and Access
Detailed FAQs on the topic of privacy and data access.
The cameras and signage will be mounted on poles, and placed in the median strips at the intersections of Alpine and La Cuesta and Alpine and La Mesa. Cameras will be positioned to capture license plate data from behind, as cars enter Ladera.
While Flock Security recommended the community install four cameras facing both directions on the La Cuesta and La Mesa median strips, the Sheriff’s Office agreed that two may be sufficient. Keeping budgetary considerations in mind, the LCA proposes to install two, one on each median. After 30 days the LCA will meet with the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office to determine whether the data quality is sufficient and whether additional cameras need to be considered.
Ladera residents may voluntarily opt their vehicle’s license plate out of the database. The LCA will publish an opt out page on http://www.laderaonline.org/ at which residents can submit proof of vehicle registration at a Ladera address to be opted out. Opting out stops vehicle information from being tracked in the Flock system.
Ladera ALPR policy: The Security committee recommends the LCA adopt the following policy to achieve the highest level of community safety while mitigating privacy concerns:
Purpose: the LCA ALPR policy is intended to regulate the use, management, retention and other aspects of the ALPR system.
Data storage: Data collected by the ALPRs will automatically be uploaded to cloud storage at the time of capture, and will never be stored on a local server or on a hard drive.
Data access: the LPR data is only accessible by the San Mateo County Sheriff’s office and is not available for use by private residents of Ladera.
Data retention: The San Mateo County Sheriff’s office recommends retaining data for up to 90 days unless the data is associated with an ongoing investigation.
Public access: Ladera’s LPR data cannot be sold, shared or transferred.
Third party data sharing: Ladera’s LPR data may be shared by the sheriff’s office with other law enforcement agencies in the state, but only in connection with an active investigation. (As an example, most vehicles involved in burglaries rarely come from the same community as the burglary.)
Oversight: the San Mateo County Sheriff’s office will ensure compliance with the policies as the provider of law enforcement services to the Ladera neighborhood.