Debate on Civil Liberties and Police Cameras

Posted: November 24, 2009 in cameras, civil liberties, licence plate readers, privacy, privacy concerns, red light cameras

TIBURON, Calif. (KCBS) — The town council unanimously approved a police program that will photograph the license plate of every vehicle entering and leaving town.

Police Chief Michael Cronin proposed what he called “the most inexpensive, cost efficient method” of tackling crime even before the slaying of Joan Rosenthal, the town’s first murder in four decades.

“We have an obligation to spend as few tax dollars as we can,” he said.

Listen KCBS’ Margie Shafer reports

The council vote on Wednesday came after a debate about the balance between privacy and public safety that stayed cordial despite the strong feelings of some residents.

“I am disgusted by this plan,” said Terry Graham. She and other residents who spoke at the meeting said the cameras would change the ambience of the tony town.

Cameras on Tiburon Boulevard and Paradise Drive—the only roads in and out of town—will be positioned to capture only an image of the rear license plate. Cronin said records would be purged after 30 days.

“The safe guards are far stronger in smaller communities than they are in much larger ones or in entities like the state or federal government. If you have a problem with a Tiburon police officer and you call a council member, I’m going to have to provide an explanation within an hour,” he said.

The camera idea is not entirely new. Former Mayor Andrew Thompson proposed the cameras in the mid-90s.

Cronin expects to see the cameras installed within four to six months. The total cost could run as high as $197,000.

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