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Sat. Jun 15th, 2024

Seattle license plate reader expansion ahead of final vote amid privacy concerns | Washington

By meerna Jun12,2024

(The Center Square) – A bill to expand Seattle Police’s use of license plate reading technology has advanced to a vote by the full city council despite privacy concerns among city council members.

Council Act 120778 will expand the use of automatic license plate reader (ALPR) technology to 360 SPD vehicles, including six patrol boats and approximately 270 marked patrol cars.

ALPR technology combines software and hardware for capturing and monitoring license plate images. The software decrypts the license plate number and compares it to a list of license plates associated with open, reported crimes and missing persons.

Expanding the technology for fleet-wide deployment is expected to cost $280,000 per year starting this year if the bill passes.

The Seattle City Council first approved the Seattle Police Department’s use of ALPR technology in 11 police vehicles in 2021, but currently has nine ALPR-equipped police patrol vehicles.

According to Seattle Police Department dataThe number of motor vehicle thefts in the city increased by 33% from 2022 (6,934) to 2023 (9,189). The department believes that greater use of ALPR will enable officers to better deal with the growing problem of vehicle theft.

The Square Center has previously noted that all data collected by ALPR systems is retained and retained for 90 days. After 90 days, data is automatically deleted unless it has been marked for investigative purposes.

Seattle City Council member Cathy Moore objected to SPD’s decision to keep collected data for 90 days. SPD argued that some cities using ALPR technology retain data for about two years.

Moore said a 48-hour review of data collected through ALPR technology should be sufficient. She added that she was concerned that the data collected would be transferred to out-of-state jurisdictions regarding people coming to Seattle to access abortion and gender-affirming care.

“The central issue is how do we protect people who come to Washington state to access reproductive or gender-affirming care from criminalization and prosecution in states that do not provide protections?” Moore asked during Tuesday’s meeting.

Moore mentioned data provided by the American Civil Liberties Union showing that in 2023, 71 California political agencies in 22 counties shared ALPR data with police in anti-abortion states, even though such sharing was a violation of California law.

SPD Chief Operating Officer Brian Maxey confirmed that these police departments were either violating the law or willingly sharing data with other agencies and that SPD would not do so based on its own data collected by ALPR.

According to Maxey, most SPD officers would not have access to the data for 90 days. Instead, select staff led by a captain would have access to the data.

ALPRs have faced legal challenges elsewhere. It is the nonprofit Liberty Justice Center sue of Illinois, arguing that the planned expansion of the system violates Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The bill was defeated by the Public Safety Committee with four votes in favor, with Moore abstaining. The final vote now goes to the full Seattle City Council.

By meerna

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