License plate-reading cameras installed at intersections would help find stolen vehicles and deter crime, a Galt police officer said when describing a proposed program to the Galt Public Safety Committee.
Galt Police Officers Association President Michael Little said at the Oct. 18 meeting that the camera network could provide a framework to eventually centralize monitoring of crime.
An automatic license plate reader system (ALPR) gathers information about a vehicle, such as its license plate number, and can alert police if it detects a wanted car. The car may be stolen, or associated with a wanted felon or a missing person.
Given the limited area that officers can observe at a time, Little said, an ALPR offers an answer to the question, “How can Galt PD provide more criminal deterrent and add case closure at the same time?”
Little said an ALPR “adheres to all state laws,” does not include facial recognition and is not used for immigration or traffic enforcement.
The cameras would focus on incoming traffic at city limits and highway entrances because, Little said, “most of the bigger crimes are outsiders coming in. Narcotics, stolen vehicles, weapons do not originate in the city. They are transported into the city.”
Among the options for setting up an ALPR, Little favored contracting with an outside company, specifically Flock Safety, which he said would reduce costs for the city. Flock’s software recognizes other identifying features of a vehicle in addition to license plates, such as color, make and model, tires and roof racks.
Little cited multiple examples of California cities, including Fairfield, that recovered more stolen cars and saw reduced crime after installing a Flock ALPR. Noting that Roseville, Elk Grove and Lodi use Flock, he explained that any car entered into one ALPR would be flagged by ALPRs of any brand nationwide.
Little saw the ALPR as a transition toward creating a real-time crime center (RTCC), a centralized location for monitoring of the camera feeds. The RTCC staff could share the information with officers in the field.
The RTCC could also incorporate feeds from body-worn and in-vehicle cameras. Galt Chief of Police Brian Kalinowski told the committee that the police department’s body camera program has been delayed since the car crash that severely injured officer Kapri Herrera and resulted in the death of officer Harminder Grewal.
Kalinowski said the body- and vehicle-camera program is set to be fully operational on Nov. 30.
ALPR cameras would cost $2,500 per camera annually, plus a one-time $250 per camera installation fee, Little said, continuing that the city’s Vehicle Theft Fund has enough money to pay for 10 cameras.
The cost of an RTCC depends on its exact features.
“Depending on how in-depth you want to build it, the sky’s the limit,” Little said.
At a minimum, he estimated an RTCC costing $300,000.
The ALPR and RTCC concepts got a positive reception from committee members. Committee Member Timothy Reed noted that ALPRs are eligible for grant funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
ALPR technology “is an incredible tool in the new era of law enforcement when it comes to intelligence-led policing,” Committee Member Brian Schopf said, praising the precision it allows in “pinpointing the offenders.”
Little’s presentation is the first from a participant in Galt Police Department’s leadership development program. Now that the committee has given its feedback, the matter will be brought forward for consideration at a future City Council meeting.