The Emeryville Police Department will soon have a new tool to deter and investigate crime – a citywide Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) camera system.
City Council voted to deploy 16 cameras in the initial rollout after being presented with options for 16, 32, and 48 cameras at their December 19th meeting.
The technology selected will be Flock Safety’s ALPR system after a recommendation from the Public Safety Committee. This follows the committee’s six-month-long research, consideration, and public commenting process.
The cameras would capture license plates and other vehicle information. If a stolen or wanted vehicle passes in front of the camera, the EPD will be notified via a real-time alert. Flock’s technology can also help track vehicles without license plates by tracking make, color, and frequency.
These cameras will initially be installed at selected entry and exit points throughout the city.
In his staff report, Emeryville Police Chief Jeff Jennings noted that 90 percent of crimes committed in Emeryville over the last five years have been property crimes. In 2023, auto thefts increased 63 percent, and robberies increased 58 percent from the previous year. Flock Safety promotes its products as a way to assist law enforcement in addressing these crime concerns and to increase policing efficiency.
In a 2018 research brief written by the Vallejo Police Department and published by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Lt. Jason Potts notes the effectiveness of ALPRs, “Analysis of trial data found that police cars equipped with ALPR technology showed a 140 percent greater ability to detect stolen cars…fixed ALPR (stationary units) were found to be more efficient than mobile ALPR in making arrests, as officers tended to sit downstream of fixed locations waiting for hits, resulting in more custody arrests.”
Emeryville Police previously used fixed and mobile APLR cameras from two other vendors, Genetec and Vigilant. The Chief notes that fixed cameras, like Flock, can scan more vehicles than mobile cameras.
However, a 2019 report from the Auditor of the State of California outlines concerns for individuals’ privacy arising from using ALPRs. The ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation have expressed opposition the use of ALPRs, citing the ingestion of tracking information from innocent motorists, sharing of the data among agencies, and data security concerns.
The Emeryville Police Department notes that ALPR “enhances policing practices and creates more safeguards toward fair and impartial policing because it does not capture images of people, thus drastically reducing bias potential. ALPRs allow better and safer policing by reducing the number of unnecessary contacts between law enforcement and the public and providing more tangible evidence to solve and prosecute crime.” The Chief’s report also detailed numerous ways both the department and Flock Safety protect such data and limit data sharing.
Flock cameras are currently installed in various cities throughout the Bay Area. Emeryville’s ALPR system will also integrate with other Flock cameras independently purchased by commercial or multifamily properties for more camera coverage, allowing one-way sharing of vehicle contact data from those property owners to the police if the property owner opts into such an arrangement.
Cost of installation of the 16 cameras is expected to be $2,400 and uses existing infrastructure. The service contract is $98,400 for 24 months and $48,000 annually thereafter.
City staff is expected to bring a final contract for approval to the City Council in the first quarter of 2024.
Watch the council presentation and discussion above at [2:39:50].
Read the full staff report on Emeryville.org.