Los Al Council approves enhanced license plate data collection

Los Alamitos Police Chief Eric R. Nunez

After asking for explanations of certain issues, the Los Alamitos City Council voted unanimously Monday to allow the city’s police department to install 12 automated license plate reader cameras at specified locations throughout the city.

“This is an effective and applicable solution to bolster our efforts on public safety,” Los Alamitos police Capt. Wayne Byerley told the council.
Moreover, he said the new technology will allow investigators to “work smarter, not harder.”

The Council gave police the authority to purchase the 12 cameras at a cost of $2,700 apiece, but not before asking for explanations on several issues.
In short, police will now install the 12 cameras that will capture the license plate information from all cars driving through those locations and record that information into the “cloud.”

Council member Tanya Doby wanted an explanation on exactly what data would be collected and what happens if the data is hacked.

Byerley said the information will include only metadata from the vehicle type, color, etc., and it will live in the cloud for only 30 days. He said the only the data will be memorialized is if some of the data captured includes a vehicle police suspect may have been involved in a crime.

Byerley introduced a representative from Flock Public Safety, who said there are safeguards in the system to prevent any data from the being used by a third party.

City attorney Michael Daudt added that there is an indemnification clause in the contract to further protect the city from any financial exposure from such an occurrence.

City council member Ron Bates, who said he favors the technology, asked Police Chief Eric Nunez if 12 cameras were the appropriate number for a pilot project.

Nunez said there are 14 million cars passing through some Los Al intersections, and that after speaking to other departments, he thought the number of cameras, and locations selected, were appropriate. Also, since each camera can only cover two traffic lanes, the pilot project needs all 12 cameras.

If the pilot proves effective, said Nunez, automated license plate readers (ALPR’s) could be installed on police cars. He said with property crimes on the rise, especially catalytic converters, the APLR data may help investigators scan the data to potentially find vehicles that have been identified as suspect or involved in other crimes.

Asked about an earlier ALPR project, Byerley said there was a project 12 years ago in the city, but the technology is now antiquated and said he was not certain what happened to the earlier project.

“This is not big brother, it is not facial recognition,” noted Byerley, saying the ALPR’s are simply automated technology to have better records of vehicles moving throughout the city.

“I like the idea and hope it is wildly successful,” said Mayor Pro-tem Shelley Hasselbrink, who conducted the meeting in Mayor Mark Chirco’s absence. Hasselbrink said she thought it would be “nice to have cameras” protecting the city from potential offenders coming in from outside the city.

The Council ultimately voted 4-0 to authorize the pilot project.

The Council also learned this week that the Orange County Sanitation District would be soon starting their trunk line upgrade project.

Kathy Millea, Director of Engineering for OC Sanitation, said the agency has selected a contractor for its ongoing project that will disrupt traffic in Los Alamitos and other areas. She said the work will begin on Lexington Drive in October.

“What comes with infrastructure is disruption, and we understand that…so we make it as least disruptive as we can to the city,” said Millea.

Millea said the original sewer trunk lines, installed in the 1950’s and 1970’s, have attracted calcium deposits that need cleaning. They run parallel to Los Al/Seal Beach Boulevard.

More critically, she said the work will not be necessarily noisy, but will cause some traffic disruption. To mitigate the impacts to nearby residents, and businesses, Millea said OC Sanitation has performed significant community outreach and will have schedules varied from day/night to accommodate various areas of the city.

Affected residents and businesses have been notified by postcard, she said, after which they provide references to allow those affected to follow the progress via electronic media.

In other action Monday, the Los Alamitos City Council:
• Agreed to waive the $926 permit fee for the Community Congregational Church to allow them to have a shipping container serve as a mobile food distribution hub.
• Heard Bates say that pending state legislation that alters point of sale tax proceeds may take involvement by the Council at some point in the future to make the formula more equitable for communities that house delivery businesses.
• Heard Developmental Services Director Ron Noda explain how the city can potentially gain revenue from unused display space at bus stops. Seal Beach currently makes $70k per year, he said.

Los Al Council approves enhanced license plate data collection