As the sheriff of San Mateo County, I am dedicated to protecting public safety and the privacy of our residents. In response to a recent opinion article on automated license plate reader (ALPR) technology, I wanted to provide our county’s residents with the facts about the technology and how the data is used, shared and retained by law enforcement.California law enforcement agencies are required to have and post ALPR usage and privacy policies to ensure that the collection, use, maintenance, sharing and dissemination of the information is consistent with respect for individuals’ privacy and civil liberties.Law enforcement agencies use ALPR technology to automate manual processes that help identify stolen vehicles, vehicles used by wanted suspects, vehicles used by registered sex offenders, locating missing persons and, more importantly, to investigate criminal activity more efficiently. ALPR technology takes photos of license plates in public view and runs the scanned images through a list of plates sought by law enforcement. The system collects the photo of the vehicle, license plate number and the location data. The system does not collect personal identifying information, such as birth dates, names or criminal history. My office’s ALPR data is retained for a maximum of one year unless the information is from an ALPR that has been deployed within an area wherein the local government has requested a shorter retention period.Our data is not shared with unvetted third-party organizations. Only law enforcement personnel with a need and right to know the information may have access to the data. On the topic of ALPR data sharing and immigration enforcement, we do not share any ALPR data with “ICE to track undocumented immigrants, who have committed no offense other than trying to make a life for themselves in California without documentation,” as stated in the guest perspective “Why license plate privacy matters” authored by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, in the April 7 edition of the Daily Journal. ALPR databases in California may not be accessed for the sole purpose of immigration enforcement as required by the California Values Act. Misuse of data by law enforcement personnel may be cause for administrative, civil and criminal penalties. Currently, Senate Bill 210 seeks to limit the retention of ALPR records to 24 hours. This would not improve privacy, but it would limit our ability to investigate violent crimes, serial criminal activity and any other crime that takes more than 24 hours to identify suspects, locate witnesses and locate victims. If the bill were passed into law, it would reduce or eliminate our ability to solve some of our most serious criminal offenses. In one example of the use of ALPR data, a suspect in Daly City exposed himself as he attempted to grab a 12-year-old female victim, who was fortunately able to escape the assault. The victim provided Daly City Police Department with a description of the suspect and his vehicle. After reviewing thousands of ALPR images, they found a match. The system was then used to locate the vehicle in San Francisco. The suspect was ultimately arrested in San Francisco for the assault on the child and for being in violation his sex offender registration. Under SB 210, the evidence that led to the identification and arrest of the suspect would have been destroyed before investigators had the opportunity to review the images.In another example, a robbery occurred at a shopping center in the city of San Mateo and witnesses provided San Mateo Police Department with the suspects’ license plate number. The car was registered in Madera, California. Historical ALPR records provided information that the vehicle had been parked multiple times in Redwood City at the same location. Redwood City police responded to the vehicle’s historical parking location and found the car with the suspects inside. San Mateo police transported the victim to the location in Redwood City, where the suspects were positively identified, and the stolen property was recovered. Historical ALPR data quickly located suspects that had no fear of harming the public and brought them to justice. Under SB 210, the historical ALPR data would have been destroyed and law enforcement would have been looking for suspects 150 miles away.I am deeply committed to public safety and the protection of privacy. I want the public to know that historical ALPR data helps us to focus our limited resources to solve crimes and save lives. I also wanted to clear up any misunderstanding regarding how we use this invaluable law enforcement tool in our community, while protecting privacy. Please visit our website to learn more about our ALPR policy and how we serve our community with pride, commitment, integrity, compassion and innovation.Carlos Bolanos is the San Mateo County sheriff.
Sheriff Carlos G. Bolanos’ Opinion Piece above was sent to the San Mateo Daily Journal he chose not to publish it on the Sherif’s Office Website.
Some Residents of San Mateo County know that Carlos G. Bolanos was illegally appointed to the position of Sheriff on July 12, 2016 by the Supervisors of San Mateo County. It was not on the Agenda , Supervisor Don Horsley who was asked to recuse himself from that issue because his son is employed by the Sheriff’s Office lead the appointment through.
It’s telling that Sheriff Bolanos uses a minor female sexual assault victim as an example of why ALPR are great.
In one example of the use of ALPR data, a suspect in Daly City exposed himself as he attempted to grab a 12-year-old female victim, who was fortunately able to escape the assault. When on April 21, 2007 Carlos Bolanos was Detained in Las Vegas during the FBI Sting “Operation Dollhouse” He was caught inside the single family residence located at 3474 Eldon Street where a minor female was the victim of Human Trafficking of Sex Slaves.