Emeryville Latest City to Embrace ALPR Technology to Combat Crime

2 mins read

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.

A map of the placement of the 16 license plate readers shows clusters of cameras around Powell, San Pablo Avenue and the East Bay Shopping Center.

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.

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Bobby Lee

is a Bay Area native who’s lived in the Christie Core Neighborhood since 2010, Bobby enjoys exploring the far corners of our region, trying the newest restaurants in the area, or relaxing to 80's era television sitcoms and game shows. For the past six years, he's hosted a web video series called 2 Minute Finance teaching basic money management and consumer education.

1 Comment

  1. ALPR technology is effective to locate stolen vehicles but not sure how much more valuable it will be outside of this. Its essentially the same individuals carrying out the majority of crimes and they have rap sheets to prove it. The weakness I see in the deployment of any law enforcement technology, is our judges have decided that keeping criminals outside of prison is the best thing for them, instead of thinking what is best for the public’s safety. Most people carrying out crimes have been caught multiple times and have no intention of ever stopping because they are fully aware the law is on their side.

    Something that is potentially cheaper than cameras is to turn most of the San Pablo side of Emeryville into one way and cul-de-sac streets much like Berkeley has done on the residential roads coming off San Pablo. This would end the issue of speeding vehicles through residential streets from San Pablo trying to access the freeway.

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