Servando Vargas / Courier A mixed media illustration about automatic license plate readers that are used by police departments on October 2, 2020.
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Pasadena city council approved the spending of up to 80,000 dollars in the coming months for new automated license plate readers, or ALPRs. While the local community struggles with the effects of the Corona-virus pandemic and the wildfires that continue to burn in the area this new equipment should not be a necessity for the Pasadena police department to allocate funds towards. Public safety is a concern for most residents of Pasadena but a few new ALPRs should not be a priority of the police department or city council. 

In an agenda report from the Pasadena Police Department ALPRs are defined as “Three to four cameras affixed to a patrol vehicle, software to manage the data that is collected, and network connectivity to upload the information to a secured cloud storage technology.”  

They further explained the need for these devices, “The system checks each license plate against the stolen vehicle database and then stores a photo with date, time and location data for retrieval during criminal investigations.” 

ALPRs are a crucial tool for police officers in criminal investigations. ALPRs take the license plate number and location of a vehicle into a system that can connect them to any crimes that vehicle has been involved in, helping locate criminals or victims. However, these devices can lead to an invasion of privacy for the public. 

The company providing the new license plate readers for the Pasadena police department, Vigilant Solutions, will have access to public information but have entered into an agreement with the city of Pasadena to keep information secure as stated in their policy manual. 

“All data will be closely safeguarded and protected by both procedural and technological means, accessing the data is for legitimate law enforcement purposes only, such as when the data relate to a specific criminal investigation or department-related civil or administrative action,” stated a policy manual released by the South Pasadena police department.

In relation to the release of public information the South Pasadena police department stated, “The ALPR data may be shared only with other law enforcement or prosecutorial agencies for official law enforcement purposes or as otherwise permitted by law.” 

The security of the public’s information is protected under these measures as Vigilant Solutions must agree to them in order to supply the police department with ALPRs. Seeing that the Pasadena police department will be spending at most 80,000 dollars on these new devices, it is in the best interest of Vigilant Solutions to adhere to the policies in place. 

Although public safety is important, the security of public information must also be taken into consideration by city council as well as the economic impact a contract like this could have on the local economy. 

With the economic uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, a large purchase such as this one seems irresponsible for the Pasadena city council to approve. 

At the start of the year the City of Pasadena budget in brief stated that the local economy was doing well. 

“Pasadena’s local economy continues to perform well with the latest unemployment rate at 4.0% compared to Los Angeles County as a whole which was at 4.7%” 

Obviously this has changed with unemployment skyrocketing across the country due to many businesses being unable to operate during the pandemic. Pasadena is not immune to these changes but the police department continues with plans to spend large amounts of money. 

In the police department’s agenda report submitted to the city of Pasadena it is affirmed that these costs will not require additional funding. 

“Funding for this action will be addressed by the utilization of existing budgeted appropriations in the Fire Grants Fund 230. It is anticipated that all funds will be spent during the current fiscal year with no indirect or support cost requirements.”

Even though these funds are readily available for use it may be in the best interest of the citizens of Pasadena for them to be put toward economic relief or toward fighting the Bobcat fire that is affecting many Pasadena residents.

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