City Council Seeks Details on License Plate-Reading Cameras

The La Cañada Flintridge City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to direct staff to devise an implementation plan for the use of Flock Safety cameras throughout LCF, including specifics about cost and possible locations, in the aftermath of recent residential burglaries in the city.
The cameras would capture traditional video, send real-time alerts to patrol vehicles and read license plates, said Assistant City Manager Carl Alameda in a presentation to the council. Each device would cost $2,000 annually and monitor two lanes of traffic, Alameda said.
That means it would cost somewhere between $46,000 and $72,000 for 23-36 cameras to be placed at city intersections and entry and exit points in LCF, he said.
“I‘m happy we’re going to be looking into this,” said Mayor Leonard Pieroni.
The topic arose on Sept. 17 when the council asked staff members to revisit the issue of camera placement. Earlier, there had been consideration of placing cameras at the city’s main points of entry to counter residential burglaries and other crimes, according to a council staff report.
Flock cameras are cheaper than stationary automatic license plate readers, which would cost $15,000 per unit and total $612,000 to $841,500. There was also discussion of a leased mobile plate-reader option for five years through the city’s contract with the Sheriff’s Department, at an annual cost of $4,675 per unit.
Staff members had met with sheriff’s officials in October to discuss potential advances in the available technology that offered new solutions, according to the report.
LCF City Manager Mark Alexander said more information would be presented to the council before a midyear budget meeting in February.
Mohammad Tajsar, an ACLU staff attorney, said in a previous interview the plate readers were “incredibly invasive surveillance technology that don’t justify the potential privacy and civil rights risks that come with them.”
He said the cameras reveal too much about ordinary residents, such as identifying people based on their location.
Residents told the council on Tuesday the cameras were important for safety reasons.
“We are really hurting as a community from these issues,” said Nancy Maclean, who also spoke earlier in the meeting about residential burglaries, saying she was the victim of one recently. “I think speedy solutions would be very much appreciated. … Waiting another two to three years, we don’t know what’s going to happen. I think the speed to implementation might be well advised in this case.”
Resident Nancy Lindholm, who spoke earlier in the meeting, said she had been also a victim of residential burglary.
“I feel we need to move toward preventing these things to begin with,” Lindholm said. “For example, we need to get the word out to criminals La Cañada is not the place where they want to do their dirty jobs. We would very much welcome it if the city could help us out.”
Pieroni and Councilman Gregory Brown told Lindholm to stay for the discussion of the cameras and for Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Captain Todd Deeds’ public safety report, and she did.
Deeds’ report for October showed there had been seven residential burglaries in LCF compared with 11 in September, and a total of 87 for so far in 2019.
Through October last year, there were 45 residential burglaries.
“The last thing we want is for residents to feel unsafe in their home,” Deeds said. “We want you to feel safe.”
He added a burglary crew was arrested on Nov. 10 after authorities discovered jewelry stolen from a home in the 800 block of Lynnhaven Lane. Three suspects in that incident have been charged.
“It took us all by surprise,” Deeds said. “We don’t typically get residential burglaries on a Sunday morning. It’s obviously traumatic for residents in the neighborhood but it had a good, successful ending.”
Deeds added the suspects are being investigated in connection with other residential burglaries in L.A. County.
In addition to the residential burglaries, there was one rape, two aggravated assaults and 21 larceny-theft crimes in October, Deeds said.
He said he could not talk about the sexual assault, for which an investigation continues, but he was not concerned about a “sex predator on the loose in the city.”
One of the reports of aggravated assault occurred after a sheriff’s deputy pulled up on a car parked on Godbey Drive. The deputy tried to make contact with the motorist, who drove his vehicle at the deputy in an attempt to get away and later escaped in a pursuit.
“The person did leave his ID behind so we know who he is and we’re going to find him,” Deeds said to laughter from the audience.
He added there were 13 identity theft incidents, a “big jump” from recent months.
“There’s a lot of identity theft, mostly through phone calls being made and targeting the elderly and various ways of tricking the elderly and convincing them to give their credit card numbers or write checks,” Deeds said. “I think we need to do a news article on it.”
The county Fire Department, according to its activity report, responded to 126 calls. There were two fires: a vehicle fire on the eastbound 10 Freeway at Berkshire Place and a small brush fire at the westbound 210 Freeway east of Angeles Crest Highway.

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