Piedmont police say permanent license plate readers recently installed at some of the city’s intersections have been helping combat crime in the area.
“We’ve made two stolen vehicle, auto theft arrests since they’ve been up,” Piedmont Police Chief Rikki Goede said.
The cameras are attached to lamp-posts on city streets and intersections.
Many residents have commented on how inconspicuous the cameras seem.
“They just blend in,” said Wayne Batavia, of Piedmont. “In fact, most people don’t even know they’re here.”
Batavia remembers the day they arrived and he’s glad to see these cameras overlooking the street corner outside his home that sits on the Piedmont – Oakland border.
“I think it’s a great idea. There’s been an increase in robberies in the city,” said Batavia.
The cameras work by taking a picture of the license plate of every car that drives by – those plate numbers are then automatically run through a data base to cross-check for stolen vehicles.
If a car comes up as stolen, a dispatcher will receive an alert and an officer will respond within minutes.
Goede says Piedmont has seen a 30 percent increase in car theft in the past year and so far the cameras have helped deal with the problem.
Not all residents were so keen on the cameras.
“I don’t know. I have mixed feelings,” said, Rob Kelly, a Piedmont resident.
Kelly said he understands it’s a crime-fighting tool the city spent about $700,000 to install, but he wonders about the non-financial costs.
“My biggest concern is privacy and the loss of privacy. And not just the consequences today, but in the next 30 years,” Kelly said.
Goede responds pointing out that the cameras are installed on public roads.
“The reality is, you’re driving on a public road, so there’s no expectation of privacy, but we’re very careful there needs to be a law enforcement reason to look at it,” Goede said.
There are currently 39 license plate readers at 15 different locations within the city limits. Only half of those 39 are in operation as the city works with PG&E to get power installed to every camera within the next two weeks.