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San Diego City Council approves use of 'smart streetlights,' automated license plate readers

Posted at 8:32 AM, Aug 02, 2023

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – The San Diego City Council on Tuesday approved the use of both “smart streetlights” with cameras and automated license plate readers by the San Diego Police Department.

“We need to give the San Diego Police Department every tool they can use to, you know, thwart crime or solve crimes,” said Michael Trimble, executive director of Gaslamp Quarter Association.

The council voted 7-2 to authorize the use of the streetlights and 6-3 in favor of the license plate readers.

City Councilmember Marni von Wilpert, who is the chair of the Public Safety Committee, said this technology is critical.

“We’ve seen its use before, back in 2020 before I was on the council, and that’s why we are here. It’s to protect our citizens and to make sure we use this technology responsibly to solve and prevent violent crimes,” von Wilpert said.

But there are those who feel like the decision comes at the expense of people trusting the use of technology in the first place.

“There are certainly significant impacts on marginalized communities. But make no mistake, this is about everybody’s privacy,” said Pegah Parsi, vice chair of Privacy Advisory Board.

“Tons of things came up on the dais around making sure the data is stewarded properly, to protect our immigrant communities, our refugee communities, workers. But they forged forward anyways even though the discussed and brought up the issues,” said Lilly Irani with the TRUST Coalition.

Councilmember von Wilpert told ABC 10News they still have to review and vote on the contract San Diego Police will bring forward for a company to produce the tech in the future.

Until a contract is brought before council, those on both sides of the tensional technology say there can be common ground on how it’s used.

“I’m firmly in support of finding those good guardrails to allow PD to do what they need to do, to allow the city what it needs to do. But also, to protect people’s privacy and their civil liberties,” said Parsi.

“And I welcome continued dialogue, continued public input, all of the questions are answered because we’re only halfway through the process. But we will continue to be transparent. We will continue to build trust with the community as we have been doing this whole time,” von Wilpert said.