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Mayor London Breed signs bill to install 400 license plate readers across SF

S.F. to install hundreds of license plate readers
S.F. to install hundreds of license plate readers 03:23

SAN FRANCISCO – Mayor London Breed signed legislation Thursday authorizing the installation of hundreds of license plate readers across San Francisco as part of an ongoing crackdown on crime.

According to a statement from Breed's office, the bill authorizes 400 readers to be installed at 100 intersections. Late last year, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a plan from the mayor expediting their installation.

"We are making progress disrupting crimes and we are sending a message that San Francisco is not tolerating criminal activity of any kind," Breed said. "These license plate readers can play a critical role in disrupting retail theft, car break-ins, sideshows, and other criminal activity."

Funding for the readers comes from the state's Organized Retail Theft Grant Program. The city received $17.3 million.

Business owners are cautiously optimistic as the city prepares to install license plate readers.

Aref Elgaali, the owner of Z zoul Café, a Sudanese restaurant located in the heart of the Tenderloin, faces the challenges of operating in an area plagued by homelessness and a drug epidemic.

 "It's happening in some corners. Unsafe places, unsecured, drug dealers and all of this," Elgaali told CBS News Bay Area.

Despite the difficulties many businesses face in the neighborhood, Elgaali considers himself fortunate that his establishment has survived for six years without experiencing a break-in. However, he expresses the need for additional support from the city.

"We're a big city, so we have big city challenges. We have crime, we have retail theft. One of the most effective ways to combat that is to hold people accountable. And one of the ways of doing that is making sure our law enforcement and our government agencies have all the proper tools," said René Colorado, executive director of the Tenderloin Merchants Association.

Colorado said he views the license plate readers as a valuable tool that can bring peace of mind to numerous small businesses in the area.

"We wanna be supportive of this program, and I think if we continue to hold people, bad actors, accountable, it's only positive for our community," he explained.

In an effort to install the cameras quickly, the bill also directs the mayor's staff and city departments to cut through red tape, including working directly with the SFMTA and the SFPUC.

"These cameras will be a force-multiplier, helping our hard-working officers to identify vehicles used in crimes and to apprehend offenders more quickly and precisely," said Police Chief Bill Scott.

Also on Friday, the mayor's office touted a reduction in property crimes over the holiday season. Officials said between November 20, 2023 and January 1, the city saw a 48% reduction in larcenies, 17% reduction in motor vehicle theft and a 26% reduction in burglaries compared to the same period a year earlier. 

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