SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — San Jose parking enforcement officers could soon get automatic license plate readers on their vehicles if one city council member gets his way.
“If we can’t hire more people, then we can use technology to help us solve some of these crimes,” said councilman Johnny Khamis.
His proposal is among the 100 others that Mayor Sam Liccardo is currently reviewing for the next budget. The devices would cost $295,000 initially, with an ongoing cost of $146,500.
Khamis, who said he had a stolen car parked right in front of his home a few weeks ago, believes the devices could help reunite owners with their property much quicker.
“This is going to make things a lot more efficient,” he said. “They’ll automatically be told which cars are stolen.”
The devices capture license plate numbers as the vehicle that it’s installed on is moving and sends an alert if it records a stolen car. Isaac Lewis knows what it feels like to be a victim of car theft.
“We woke up one morning, and the car was gone,” Lewis said. “Felt terrible, you felt like you don’t know what the next step is other than you report it and hope that you get it back.”
It took nearly four days for his car to be found. By then, it had been stripped completely and was a total loss, he said.
But Lewis said he has his doubts about city workers using license plate readers.
“It sounds good initially, but I found that the devil’s always in the details,” he said. “So you start to wonder about privacy issues.”
He’s not alone in his concerns. The American Civil Liberties Union is calling for legislation on the devices to prevent law enforcement agencies and the government from tracking our movements on a larger scale.
But the city’s Department of Transportation spokesperson, Colin Heyne, said the tool isn’t just useful for finding stolen cars. He said it could also be used to enforce parking rules in timed zones and permit only areas.
According to the council member’s proposal, the city of Fort Lauderdale booted more than 600 scofflaw vehicles and collected more than $200,000 in unpaid fines within the first eight months of receiving only four automatic license plate readers.
Khamis will found out soon whether his proposal is approved. Mayor Liccardo is expected to release his budget plan on Friday.
“We hope that it’ll discourage people from stealing cars period in the city of San Jose,” Khamis said.