.Santa Cruz City Council Approves License Plate Cameras  

Potentially 14 cameras will be installed will depending on funding from a the State Homeland Security Program Grant 

The Santa Cruz City Council approved the police department’s request to use grant funds to install 14 automated license plate reader (ALPR) cameras at the city limits in a 5 to 2 vote. 

City Mayor Fred Keeley and Santa Cruz Council Member Sandy Brown voted against the measure.   

According to Santa Cruz Police Chief Bernie Escalante, the data will be used to “identify stolen vehicles, locate missing children or adults and investigate individuals wanted for serious crimes.” The city is applying for funds from a State Homeland Security Program Grant (SHSPG), a yearly grant that the Department of Homeland Security funds. 

Earlier this month, the council debated whether to acquire the ALPR cameras to monitor the entrances and exits of the City. The police department proposed a partnership with Flock Safety to install the cameras at key access points.

According to data Police Chief Escalante presented, one reader currently installed in the Beach Flats neighborhood has helped police locate a wanted vehicle involved in a shooting. At the Tuesday night meeting, he also pointed to a recent case where Capitola’s police department used the city of Watsonville’s readers, which helped locate the suspect in a fatal hit-and-run

secure document shredding

Some at the meeting spoke out against the cameras, saying they are a violation of privacy and they questioned the use of the data collected by Flock. 

“This is expanding policing through surveillance,”Jazz Mia said via Zoom. “What about any subpoena or leaks of the data collected? How can SCPD really claim that this information can be protected in a world of threats to and weaknesses of cybersecurity?” 

Another person raised concerns over the test community being the Beach Flats neighborhood, an area of Santa Cruz that has a high concentration of Latinx residents. 

“The poorest, brownest community in Santa Cruz was where we put our surveillance technology as a test,” Richie Misler said via Zoom. “Systemic racism was already on the front.” 

Meanwhile, council members commended the guidelines for the cameras. At the meeting, council members requested there be an annual report on their use and effectiveness, with data on the total number of scans from the cameras, the number of arrests made and vehicles recovered as a result of the cameras. 

“I’m appreciative of all the questions and concerns about how this is used,” council member Sonja Brunner said. “Even though there is a photo of the vehicle’s…license plate, it’s not even used unless it’s related to a crime or abduction…We already have cameras everywhere.”

3 COMMENTS

  1. The Santa Cruz Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union picks feel-good I’m-a-progressive issues to contend. They’re all hopped up about Automated License Plate Readers. That must be why in 2020 they didn’t contest Superior Court Judge Ariadne Symons running for re-election after fixing her own caught-on-camera run light ticket. Imagine going up before a Judge who fixed her own red light ticket. The local ACLU remains a joke.

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  2. The Santa Cruz Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union picks feel-good I’m-a-progressive issues to contend. They’re all hopped up about Automated License Plate Readers. That must be why in 2020 they didn’t contest Superior Court Judge Ariadne Symons running for re-election after fixing her own caught-on-camera red light ticket. Imagine going up before a Judge who fixed her own red light ticket. The local ACLU remains a joke.

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Aiyana Moya
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