100 license plate reader cameras are live in SF. Mayor to criminals: ‘You are going to be caught’

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — In San Francisco, the police department is attributing its latest success in combating crime to a network of license plate reader cameras recently installed.

About 100 automated license plate readers cameras are live in San Francisco and SFPD says they have been critical to combat crime.

“Our goal is to maximize our use of technology to fight crime effectively and with more precision,” said SFPD Chief Bill Scott.

This public safety strategy was led by Mayor London Breed and made possible by Prop E, allowing for an increased use of technology by the police department.

RELATED: San Francisco mayor pushes for Prop E to broaden police powers for safety

“If you are committing a crime, you are going to be caught,” said San Francisco Mayor London Breed.

The first batch was installed three months ago. Breed said these cameras are helping San Francisco collaborate with other cities.

“So far, we have already used what we have to make arrests in retail theft cases, as well as a rape that happened in another city,” Breed said. “When people in the Bay Area and different jurisdictions, they put out information, we can type it in into our license plate reader and make models of cars, whether they have license plates or not, and they will ping the information and the intersection and the locations.”

More surveillance also comes pushback. One of the groups against the cameras is the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

“ALPR’s are a form of dragnet surveillance. They record everyone’s movements all across the city. They don’t just record the movements of criminals to help stop crime, but they are also recording everywhere you go,” said Cooper Quinn, senior staff for the Technologist for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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EFF is also concerned of a possible hack.

“This creates a large repository of peoples locations, which could go back for several months, depending on how long SFPD decides to keep it, and it could represent some really personal information,” Quinn said.

Breed said she is aware of the privacy concerns but said the cameras are not being used for moving violations and they don’t use facial recognition technology.

“Our goal is safety. Our goal was not to invade someone’s privacy, but at the end of the day, we need this type of technology and these type of tools in order to protect the public, and there are tradeoffs,” Breed said.

San Francisco is using a $17.3 million grant from the state to create this network of cameras. The remaining 300 cameras are set to be installed by July.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.