City Council approves new ambulance purchase, voices concerns about new PPD crime map

PPD Chief Jeremy Bowers presenting new crime map software at March 4 City Council meeting.

Updated on March 6

The first Piedmont City Council meeting of March began with Mayor Jen Cavenaugh recognizing Women’s History Month before the Council moved to consideration of a new ambulance for the Fire Department and the renewal of the Piedmont Police Department’s contract with Tyler Technologies, the software that underlies police and fire dispatch, records management, and more, including a new crime mapping application.

New ambulance to update aging fleet

The Council unanimously approved the Piedmont Fire Department’s request to purchase a new leader ambulance. According to Fire Chief David Brannigan, the department is currently operating with ambulances from 2011 and 2018. The 2011 ambulance has been seeing wear and tear around the rubber tubing and has had to be repaired in recent years, he said. 

These ambulances also function as fully equipped emergency medical vehicles, responding to 911 calls with firefighter paramedics, a luxury that is not experienced by every city in Alameda County, Brannigan said. Despite size limitations due to the limited storage area for these vehicles, he said the new ambulance will provide a safer work environment in the passenger compartment. The new ambulance is expected to cost $379,335.19, but is $20,000 under budget Brannigan said. 

Questions about PPD’s new crime-mapping tool

The majority of the meeting was spent discussing the Piedmont Police Department’s contract with Tyler Technologies, specifically a new application launched March 1 called Citizen Connect that provides near real-time incident updates on a digital map.

Piedmont Police Chief Jeremy Bowers said the map refreshes automatically every 15 minutes, with incidents being added as soon as they are “closed” by the dispatcher. He explained that this does not mean the case has been solved, it just means the responding officers have closed the report. Some incidents, including domestic disturbances, child abuse, and sexual batteries, are not searchable for privacy reasons.

Councilmembers did voice concerns over some safety and privacy aspects of the public-facing crime map. A key concern was reporting the location of a crime. According to the map’s overview section, “all addresses are centered on the block of occurrence and not at specific addresses to protect the privacy of those involved,” but Councilmembers said the searchable results seem to show specific house numbers.

“I’m really struggling with the public-facing side of this,” said Councilmember Betsy Andersen, who said she was concerned about the privacy implications of some of the categories (i.e., false alarms) being exploited and the siting of ALPR cameras being more visible.

Bowers said mapping was a common practice in police departments and that access to information was something the public had been requesting from the department and it is a constant “push-pull” between providing transparency and information about crime and not providing too much detail. He said he would investigate the way addresses display on the map and noted that ALPR information is already generally available.

The system contract with Tyler Technologies is a three-year contract and will cost the city of Piedmont $100,444.79 in the first year with a 6% increase in cost each year. Mayor Cavenaugh expressed concerns at this rising cost, but the resolution passed unanimously. 

In councilmember reports, Councilmember Jennifer Long said that the Planning Commission will be discussing draft standards and guidelines for wireless communication facilities on March 11.*

Finally, three new fire department recruits have begun training at the Las Positas Regional Fire Academy, according to City Councilmember Conna McCarthy. 

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the Planning Commission would be discussing the Moraga Canyon Specific Plan on March 11. The March 11 meeting will be about design guidelines for Wireless Communication Facilities.

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