City OKs Purchase of Cameras That Read License Plates

The La Cañada Flintridge City Council voted to approve funding for 37 Flock Safety cameras — including 10 on Foothill Boulevard — with the source of the money to be identified during the midyear budget process next month. The cameras, which can read vehicles’ license plates, have been viewed recently as a possible public safety enhancement amid a spate of local residential burglaries.
The cost of the program is $78,800, which includes a one-time installation cost of $4,800 and an annual license fee of $74,000, according to a city statement.
After the meeting, Assistant City Manager Carl Alameda said there is no timeframe yet for installation of the cameras because funding has to be approved at the midyear budget meeting.
That budget will come before the City Council at 4 p.m. Monday, March 2, said City Manager Mark Alexander.
The Flock Safety cameras are solar powered, capture traditional video, send real-time alerts to patrol vehicles, read plates and cost about $2,000 per unit annually, said a city statement. They also read two lanes of traffic in the same direction, whereas stationary automatic license-plate readers identify only a single lane and cost about $15,000 per unit annually.
After working with Flock Safety officials and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, city staff members developed a plan that calls for placement of the 37 units.
Alameda said there is 60-day trial period for the cameras, so if city officials are not pleased with the results they can stop using them and return them at no cost.
Pressing for camera placements not included in the plan, Councilman Jonathan Curtis said the intersection of the 210 Freeway exit and Georgian Road should have a camera because of previous home-invasion robberies in the area, and urged that a camera slated to be at Palm Drive and Fairmount Avenue be deployed instead at Palm and Foothill. Otherwise, the camera would miss a “huge area” of town, he said.
Alexander said the respective locations were recommended because they allow for tracking the direction in which vehicles are traveling.
“It might be a hit at one location, but by the time deputies are notified they want to know where they are currently,” Alexander said. “So they’re tracking different points within the community.”
Not everyone was pleased with the cameras. Resident Debbie Johannes handed out a three-page list to the City Council with the headline “A Compromise Which Is Not at the Expense of Our Community Safety!” The list said, “The LCF Community Unity Safety Movement is growing and there is a general consensus based upon the fact that we need and deserve the funding for more law enforcement protection” and offered a number of suggestions. The suggestions included adding law enforcement personnel and using money from reserves to fund them, and added, “… those opposing placing our safety over profits will be systematically voted out of office, or replaced.”
Johannes said at the meeting the cameras are not a crime deterrent but advocated having 10 cameras for a pilot program and using the remaining money to hire law enforcement personnel.
Councilman Gregory Brown, who voted in favor of the cameras, said before giving his assent that operating 37 cameras all day was a “better first step” for the city. Adding a county sheriff’s deputy for eight hours a day would not be successful unless the city has one on every block to stop crime, he said. Brown added there are neighborhoods that have added private patrols but it was unclear if they had helped reduce crime.
Walker moved for approval of the item, said the city is taking a multipronged approach and also said she fully supported obtaining the cameras.

GREAT CHOCOLATE RACE CHANGE

Council members also asked to temporarily remove a traffic engineer charge of $788 for a special event permit for the Great Chocolate Race, hosted by the Flintridge Guild of Children’s Hospital, which supports Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. The permit was listed under a request for a waiver of fees and cost.
Walker asked why the traffic engineer cost increased from $88 last year to $788 this year, and City Public Works Director Patrick DeChellis said there was an increase in the event’s scope that included an expanded lane closure at Foothill Boulevard and Cornishon Avenue.
Councilman Michael Davitt agreed with Walker’s suggestion of removing the $788 and approved the item, adding, “When you get the traffic engineer bill that’s above $88, bring it back to us and we’ll approve it then.”

SOUNDWALL UPDATE

DeChellis also gave an update on the third phase of 210 Freeway sound wall construction.
The third phase was approved in December 2018. It involves the south side of the 210 and includes a continuation of the project’s second phase from Alta Canyada Road to the bridge under Foothill Boulevard at Memorial Park; the south side of the 210 from west of Vineta Avenue to the eastbound on-ramp east of Georgian Road that overlaps part of the first phase; and the north side of the 210 from the intersection of Baptiste Way and Vineta to the Crown Avenue/Foothill westbound exit.
DeChellis said three proposals for the work, initially estimated to cost around $12 million, were received by the Jan. 23 deadline and representatives of all firms were interviewed on Jan. 30. Negotiations are ongoing with one of the firms, DeChellis said.
“I expect it to conclude by the end of the week early next week,” DeChellis said. A contract will be brought forward to the City Council in the first week of March for approval, he said.

PIERONI RETURNS

Mayor Leonard Pieroni also was on the dais for the first time since his recent health scare.
He thanked everyone for their concerns and prayers while he’s been recovering.
“I am doing a lot better,” Pieroni said.

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