CARLSBAD — More license plate readers are coming to the city.
On Aug. 21, the City Council approved, 4-1, to expand the number of license-plate readers by 35 units at 20 additional locations throughout the city.
Also, the city approved a contract with Vigilant Solutions, LLC, to not exceed $497,384.73 plus $40,000 for installation for a total of $537,384.73 over five years to supply them.
The council also approved to agendize a report from the Carlsbad Police Department about adding more mobile license-plate readers to police vehicles.
“It seems the state is on the side of bad people and not police officers,” Mayor Matt Hall said in support of the expansion. “This has more than proven itself and we should keep expanding.”
Currently, 14 fixed license plate readers are at intersections and six mobile cameras are mounted on police vehicles. Carlsbad Police Chief Neil Gallucci said the fixed readers only capture rear license plates.
Through July 1, the program recorded 48,181,824 license plates in the city with 267 reports of stolen or wanted vehicles. Of those, 65 vehicles and 10 license plates were recovered, according to a report delivered by Cpt. Mickey Williams.
In addition, 63 arrests have been made including three individuals linked in separate cases to attempted murder in Carlsbad, San Diego County and Arizona. Most of the arrests were related to auto theft and have led to recovery of other stolen property including an AR-15 rifle. Forty-four of the arrestees also had a criminal history or were on parole or probation.
The additional 35 license plate readers throughout the city will be deployed with more in Carlsbad Village, major retail areas, neighborhoods near motels and two at the northern city limits on College Boulevard.
“Seventy percent of the criminals do not live in the city,” Cindy Anderson, a Carlsbad Police Department crime analyst, said when asked if criminals know about the license-plate readers. “Most come from Oceanside, Poway or East County, which may explain them not knowing the cameras are up.”
The license plate readers are a controversial topic nationwide and throughout the state regarding privacy and data access concerns. Councilwoman Cori Schumacher, the lone no vote, said because of those concerns she could not support the expansion.
Schumacher spoke about how data captured from the Carlsbad Police Department was accessed and used by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department to track an individual for welfare fraud. However, she said there was no proof the individual was suspected of fraud and Schumacher worried other agencies could use the same tactics to access information from Carlsbad.
“This has prompted cities to pass more restrictive ordinances,” she explained. “This has been an eye-opening foray into privacy issues. No matter how stringently audited or what our MOU (memorandum of understanding) looks like, our data is being used not according to our MOU.”
Carlsbad only allows other agencies to access its data through an MOU and the police department has agreements with at least 200 law enforcement agencies, according to Gallucci.
Data is accessed through the Law Enforcement Archival Reporting Network.
Vigilant Solutions holds contracts with hundreds of cities and federal agencies including the Department of Homeland Security and ICE.
However, Gallucci said Carlsbad does not allow ICE access to its information.
On March 14, 2017, the City Council agreed to an $800,000 contract to buy 51 cameras and six mobile readers.