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Controversial license plate reader program extended by Chula Vista City Council

Posted at 7:08 AM, Apr 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-21 11:13:31-04

CHULA VISTA, Calif. (KGTV) - A controversial license plate reader program used by the police department was extended by the Chula Vista City Council in a unanimous vote Tuesday night.

The vote followed a heated discussion, with commentary from the public, concerned about privacy and safety from federal immigration agencies.

The Automated License Plate Reader Program started in 2007, allowing four cameras to be mounted on police vehicles to take pictures of license plates as officers drive.

Concerns started last December after information surfaced the police department was sharing data collected with ICE and Border Patrol through a third-party systems provider.

Police say they were unaware of that and immediately stopped sharing data with those agencies.

The department created a 15-page report showing what information they do collect and who is able to view the data.

That information includes time, date and location, but does not collect names or addresses of the vehicle's owner.

Tuesday night's city council meeting held in-person commentary for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Some in the community said they didn't know the program existed until December and are frustrated with the lack of communication.

Police defended the system saying tools like this help them catch dangerous criminals.

"Chief Roxana Kennedy mentioned murder, and trying to scare us into this technology, that's not the way to do it. I love Chula Vista, I love living here. I actually feel safe walking down the streets even pregnant at night. So don't paint this city as a horrible, even though its mostly residential, as though its violent," a neighbor said at the podium.

Others said they feel extending the program is rushed and the council is not allowing the community to weigh in.

Some residents did voice their support for the police department.

Mayor Mary Salas supported the vote saying crime is rising and now is not the time to take away crime fighting resources.

She also said they need to find out how much it would cost to create an oversight program.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, CVPD's chief of police requested an audit of the program by the state, but there's no word on whether the state will follow through.