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Alameda's Crime-Fighting License Plate Readers Prompt Privacy, ICE Concerns

ALAMEDA (KPIX 5) – A Bay Area community has a crime-fighting tool that works and it wants more like it.

Alameda is an island that is currently monitored by four license plate readers mounted on patrol cars.

There is now a push to increase the amount of plate readers to as many as 13. This would be part of a continued plan to track and monitor stolen vehicles and criminal activity on the island.

But it comes as ICE tension and license plate reader data is making national headlines.

A 12 percent spike in crime prompted the Alameda police chief to look at expanding the license plate camera program.

They already mounted license plate readers to four patrol cars.

Now they want to get money from the city to mount 13 cameras at each island entrance and exit.

There are only so many ways to drive in and out of Alameda.

Alameda resident Alejandra Quintero said, "I think I'm supporting it because I feel like it would help out crime just in case something were to occur in Alameda."

The police department credits the cameras for recently alerting them to a vehicle thief driving in a stolen car.

And back a while ago, the license plate readers helped Alameda officers locate a suicidal woman.

But a delegate with the California Democratic Party, Gabrielle Dolphin, warns ICE could use the police cameras to catch undocumented immigrants.

"This is very dangerous," Dolphin said.

The data from the cameras go to a company called Vigilant Solutions. And ICE recently signed a contract with the Livermore-based company.

"Our LPR's are no longer being used to trace stolen vehicles, but to trace people, certain classes of people," Dolphin said.

The police chief tells me the cameras would only focus on the license plates, not the drivers. Also, he says his department will not cooperate with ICE. And ICE will not have access to his cameras through Vigilant Solutions.

Dolphin said, "We cannot believe him. We cannot trust what's said to us. We have to put our feet down."

Many people who live in Alameda say as long as ICE can't access the cameras, they support the idea.

Alameda resident Zubida Bakheit said, "Anything they think they need to empower them to do their job and to keep the citizens safe, I think we should give it a shot."

The city council is set to vote on the cameras Tuesday night.

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