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Tiburon to Photograph License Plates of All Cars Entering Town
2009-11-24 0:00

By Demian Bulwa | SFGate.com

A novel anti-crime surveillance program that will record the license plate number of every car entering and leaving Tiburon should be up and running within six months, officials said Thursday.

The Town Council voted 4-0 late Wednesday - with Vice Mayor Miles Berger absent - to install six cameras that recognize license plate characters on Tiburon Boulevard and Paradise Drive. Those are the only two roads that feed into the Tiburon peninsula, which also includes the smaller city of Belvedere on its southwestern edge.

Tiburon will be the first community in the Bay Area, and perhaps the country, to line its borders with the cameras, which have drawn criticism from privacy rights advocates.

Plates will be compared to databases of stolen or wanted cars, with matches triggering an immediate alert to local officers. If detectives are investigating a crime, they will be able to search the records to try to find possible suspects.

"I think it makes the community safer," Police Chief Michael Cronin said. He said the town still needs to select a camera vendor and secure construction permits before installing the system.

Tiburon and Belvedere are affluent communities with low crime rates, and some residents at Wednesday's meeting said the cameras would help keep it that way.

"If it lowers the crime rate even a little bit, then it's a great idea," said Yami Anolik, a 64-year-old real estate investor whose husband, Al Anolik, spoke in favor of the cameras at the meeting.

She said she did not share the privacy concerns of some of her neighbors, explaining, "If you're driving on a public road, you gave up your privacy already. If you want to be private, stay at home."

William Rothman, a 72-year-old retired physician from Belvedere, spoke against the cameras, saying he had concerns that went beyond the "creeping invasion of our privacy rights."

He said he was concerned that detectives armed with a list of hundreds of cars that entered Tiburon around the time of a crime would profile suspects based on where they were from and what they drove.

He also worries that a stolen car alert could prompt a dangerous confrontation on busy Tiburon Boulevard. Noting the low crime rates in Tiburon and Belvedere, he said, "This is overkill. It's like going after a flea with a cannon."

Cronin said the license plate data will be kept for 30 days and then erased. It will not be available to the public. Officers can mine the data only in connection with crimes, Cronin said, and the program will keep a record of exactly what information police examine.

License plate readers have become a common police tool in the past several years. Agencies have primarily mounted the cameras on patrol cars, not at fixed locations, but that may be changing.

The project is expected to cost from $137,000 to $197,000. Tiburon will spend $45,000 to $85,000, Town Manager Peggy Curran said, after grants and contributions from two other governments that could benefit - Belvedere and Marin County.

Article from: SFGate.com

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