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Natomas Community Installs License Plate Readers In Hopes Of Deterring Crime

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Fighting crime, one license plate at a time. A Natomas neighborhood fed up with law-breaking drivers has installed license plate readers throughout the community known as "The Hamptons."

"We've been out here for 15 years and there's a lot of drive-by crime in the area," said Amy Gidding-Mora.

The Hamptons homeowner's association approved funds to set up several license plate cameras around the perimeter of the neighborhood that will capture every car coming in and going out.

"We have folks that do donuts with their vehicles, we have folks that use this road as a raceway," said Ed Perez, Hamptons Homeowners Association President.

Perez said these license plate readers are always on and have infrared for capturing images at night. If someone witnesses crime on the ground, the idea is that they get extra evidence about the car involved, from a birds-eye view

"Date, time, approximate description. We'll be able to find it," Perez said.

Perez said the license plate photos are not automatically shared with police. Someone would have to report a crime first to police or the community's private security service.

"It's got a very narrow field of vision so it's not capturing the lady walking the dog in the park, it's looking for a license plate," Perez said.

Sacramento Attorney Mark Reichel said this is perfectly legal in a public area where there's no expectation of privacy.

"They have to be very careful that it's not going on to somebody's private property," Reichel said.

But things get sticky when police are involved.

"The police can know that it exists, and you can use it in your neighborhood and you can use it when there's a crime. You just can't send it to them so they can keep compiling data," he said.

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It's a high-powered camera with a narrow view. The hope is that it could crack the case in crimes that rarely have leads.

"Having these in the area I think will deter people from at least coming into our community to do that," Gidding-Mira said.

There is concern among some lawmakers about how police use this type of information. New legislation introduced last month aims to prevent police from retaining plate information that is not relevant to an investigation.

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