News Details

Provide Your Input on the Implementation of Automated License Plate Recognition Systems

Posted: 3/10/2020 | 4:30 p.m.

Email your input to the City Council: citycouncil@ci.norco.ca.us 

Law enforcement agencies throughout the nation are increasingly adopting Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) systems to enhance their enforcement and investigative capabilities, expand their collection of relevant data, and expedite the tedious and time-consuming process of manually comparing vehicle license plates with lists of stolen, wanted, and other vehicles of interest. ALPR systems function to automatically capture an image of the vehicle’s license plate, transform that image into alphanumeric characters using optical character recognition or similar software, compare the plate number acquired to one or more law enforcement database and alerts law enforcement when a vehicle of interest has been observed. The automated capture, analysis and comparison of vehicle license plates typically occurs within seconds, alerting the officer almost immediately when a wanted plate is observed. The ALPR systems automates and improves the efficiency and effectiveness of identifying wanted vehicles and persons observed entering and exiting our community.

The City Council is currently evaluating the purchase and implementation of 10 ALPR fixed cameras in the amount of $167,000 at selected City locations by either approving the Measure R Citizens’ Oversight Committee’s recommendation to use Measure R funds; or in the alternative, approve funding from the General Fund. Based on current revenue projections for Measure R and total expenditures already approved, Measure R Fund has estimated $1.7 million available for additional appropriation. Should the City Council elect to fund the ALPR from the General Fund, sufficient fund balance in an estimated amount of $14.1 million is available. Included with the purchase will be the cost of programming, aiming, and software installation. It also includes five years of commercial data and five years of basic and standard services packages with software warranty, hosting fees, and all required features, as well as five years of hardware warranty are included. There will ongoing cellular modem costs and any costs associated with relocations of equipment, if needed. The cellular costs are made monthly and will be paid as part of the Sheriff Department’s ongoing operating budget.

Surrounding cities that have deployed ALPR systems include Chino, Eastvale, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, and Riverside. ALPR Locations in the City of Norco would be placed in the intersection of Crestview Drive and North Drive, Hamner Avenue and Hidden Valley Parkway, Sixth Street and Sierra Avenue, and Hidden Valley Parkway and Norco Hills Drive. Currently, the City of Eastvale has ALPR fixed cameras on Archibald Avenue and River Road, and Hamner Avenue and Citrus Street, in which the City of Norco would not need to have fixed ALPR systems at those locations as the data is also part of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

 

BACKGROUND

Automated license plate recognition technology was invented in 1976 in the Police Scientific Development Branch (PSDB), Home Office, United Kingdom. Law enforcement agencies throughout the United States are increasingly implementing ALPR systems to enhance their enforcement and investigative capabilities, expand their collection of relevant data, and expedite the tedious and time-consuming process of manually comparing vehicle license plates with lists of stolen, wanted, and other vehicles of interest.

ALPR systems function to automatically capture an image of a vehicle’s license plate, transform that image into alphanumeric characters using optical character recognition or similar software, compares the plate number acquired to one or more law enforcement database and alert law enforcement when a vehicle of interest has been observed. The automated capture, analysis, and comparison of vehicle license plates typically occurs within seconds, alerting officers almost immediately when a wanted plate is observed.

For several years, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department has used an ALPR system. The ALPR system consist of cameras mounted to fixed traffic signal poles and/or to police vehicles that automatically take photographs of vehicle license plates. The resulting data is compared to law enforcement databases and alerts when the vehicle has been reported stolen, being used in a crime, or is displaying lost and stolen license plates. Prior to any enforcement being initiated, deputies are required to verify the alert with dispatch or directly via the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications Systems (CLETS). The ALPR data is only accessible by law enforcement personnel for officer investigative purposes and all access is logged by the user.

The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department is committed to operating ALPR technology in a measured means that balances personal privacy concerns and public safety. The Department follows strict protocols in the access, storage and use of ALPR data to ensure its integrity and compliance with applicable laws. ALPR data is listed with the Riverside County Records Management and Archive Policy A-43 and is purged two years after being collected.

In 2016, Senate Bill 34- Automated License Plate Recognition Systems; Use of Data became law. The law authorizes the Department to use ALPR data for the purpose of locating vehicles or persons reasonably suspected of being involved in the commission of a public offense and requires the Department to monitor the internal use of the data to prevent unauthorized use. The law specified requirements for the Department to maintain reasonable security procedures and practices to protect ALPR information and implement a usage and privacy policy with respect to that information. The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department manages the privacy and usage of all ALPR data received from any ALPR in the City of Norco. The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department ALPR policy for usage and privacy is under Department Standards Manual #412 which ensures that data is properly collected, used, and managed.

The law requires a public agency, as defined, that operates or intends to operate an ALPR system to provide an opportunity for public comment at a regularly scheduled public meeting of the governing body of the public agency before implementing the program. (Civil Code 1798.90.55). This item was noticed in accordance with the Ralph M. Brown Act and was available for public viewing and review at least 72 hours prior to the scheduled meeting date.

ALPR systems are typically deployed in public venue on public streets, roadways, and highways. As such, there is little “expectation of privacy” associated with observing a vehicle and its license plate numbers at a specific location, date and time. Law enforcement is free to observe and even record information regarding a person’s or a vehicle’s movements in public venues. To date, there are no reported judicial decisions on the constitutionality of prolonged location tracking using ALPRs. Federal and state courts have held, however, that single-instance database checks of license plate numbers, including by ALPRs, are not searches under the Fourth Amendment. They reason that the license plates are in “plain view” and therefore do not pass the “reasonable expectation of privacy” test. Following from this, law enforcement authorities have argued that ALPRs simply automate and facilitate the large-scale capture of license plate data and, as such, similarly do not implicate the Fourth Amendment.

ALPR technology is a significant tool in the arsenal of law enforcement and public safety agencies. It automates a tedious, distracting, and manual process that officers regularly complete in their daily operations, and vastly improves their efficiency and effectiveness in identifying vehicles of interest among the hundreds or thousands they observe in routine patrol. Moreover, it generates a rich and enduring record of vehicle sightings, complete with time, date, and geographic location information for each observation. This data can substantially enhance the investigative capacity of law enforcement, and greatly contribute to intelligence collection and analysis functions.

ALPR systems assist with more follow-up arrests using fewer deputies. Surrounding cities that have deployed ALPR systems include Chino, Eastvale, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, and Riverside.

 

PROGRAM DESCRIPTION

ALPR fixed unit cameras would be most effective in the City of Norco. Each fixed camera is required for a lane of travel that the license plate in desired to be collected. Locations are prioritized based in volumes and proximity to city boundaries, freeway interchanges and retail properties. Our determination is to capture the majority of vehicle license plates entering and leaving the city on the streets with the highest traffic volumes.

The system features a rugged and compact dual-lens (infrared and color) License Plate Reader camera engineered for extreme conditions. The camera recognizes license plates in the camera’s field of view, matches against various agency hotlists and notifies law enforcement of matches. These cameras are mounted on existing traffic poles in conjunction with the City of Norco Public Works Department.

In addition to the license plate detection system, the ALPR system also provides the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department with access to the Law Enforcement Archival Reporting Network (LEARN), which is an investigative software program that allows law enforcement to search for LPR records by license plate number, vehicle description, or location. Using LEARN, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department can create an investigative hot sheet, which sends an alert when a certain license plate is detected. LEARN has assisted our deputies in solving crimes in numerous cases in Norco.

LEARN software is hosted at a highly secure date center in Virginia and is limited to law enforcement use only. It features a variety of data protection standards such as the Criminal Justice Information Services, known as CJIS, compliant access controls, case-level auditing, and account management by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. Because the data is hosted, the data is never replicated or copied or sold, and the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department is in complete control of its data and preserving the integrity of the Department’s data retention policy of two (2) years.

Riverside County Sheriff’s Department sworn personnel are required to attend four hours of training about the system and policy prior to being given access to the system. Annual audits of the system to ensure privacy and security are conducted by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.