In the News | Oakland neighborhoods are investing in ALPRs

A Google Maps satellite image of the neighborhood around Oakland's Lakeshore neighborhood.

In a report published on March 27, Oaklandside takes a deep dive into how neighborhood associations on the outskirts of Piedmont are investing in automatic license plate readers (ALPRs) to fight crime. The cameras are from the same company, Flock Safety, that Piedmont uses to track cars coming in and out of the city.

The move by private homeowners associations follows several years of increased concerns about crime, including broad daylight shootings and brazen robberies in neighborhoods where many residents say they previously felt safe. Proponents of the cameras say they can help police respond faster to criminal activity, solve crimes like burglaries and shootings, and serve as a deterrent. 

However, the advent of privately run surveillance camera networks monitoring public roads raises questions. Will wealthier neighborhoods that are able to pay for surveillance technology receive more attention from the police, who will get more alerts and have more evidence for incidents in these areas compared to crimes that happen in lower-income parts of Oakland? What safeguards are being put in place to ensure data collected by these cameras isn’t misused by police or improperly shared? And are license plate scanners even effective at fighting crime?

We examined public records and spoke to leaders of homeowners associations, law enforcement officials, the company that makes the surveillance cameras, and privacy experts to better understand where these new camera systems are being set up, what neighborhoods hope to accomplish, and the concerns some have about the proliferation of license plate readers on the city’s roads.

Oakland HOAs are quietly installing surveillance cameras to watch public roads, Eli Wolfe, March 27

The reporting published on March 27 focuses on the Lakeshore Homes Association (Trestle Glen area) but says other neighborhood associations like the Homeowners of Crestmont Association and the Oakmore Homes Association are using or considering the systems. Homeowners associations aren’t subject to public records laws, which means they don’t have to share information about who is using their cameras, what they’re searching for, and what data they’re collecting, according to the article. The article also says that the Lakeshore HOA is unable to share data with Oakland police because the department doesn’t have an agreement in place with Flock.

The Lakeshore association is currently sharing data from its cameras with the California Highway Patrol and the San Francisco District Attorney as well as police departments in Albany, Alameda, Berkeley, Moraga, Piedmont, Richmond, and San Leandro, Oaklandside reports.

see related

Leave a Reply

The Exedra comments section is an essential part of the site. The goal of our comments policy is to help ensure it is a vibrant yet civil space. To participate, we ask that Exedra commenters please provide a first and last name. Please note that comments expressing congratulations or condolences may be published without full names. (View our full Comments Policy.)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *