Automated License Plate Readers in Berkeley

On Thursday, July 7, 2023, Hansel Aguilar, Director of the Police Accountablility Board (PAB) in Berkeley, and Jose Murillo, Office of Director of Police Accountability (ODPA) Policy Analyst, hosted a community input meeting to gather input regarding the Berkeley Police Department’s plan to use Automated License Plate Readers (ALPR).

The meeting started off with reviewing Berkeley Municipal Code 2.99–a procedure for the use of surveillance technology that takes account of one’s civil rights and privacy, and the PAB’s past stance of the use of ALPR. The use of ALPR by Berkeley’s police department was approved by a city council majority on November 30th, 2021.

The Berkeley police gave a presentation that outlined why ALPR devices should be installed throughout the city of Berkeley. Approximately 52 ALPRs will be added on street poles, street lights, highways, and certain private car parks. The vendor and locations of these said devices have not yet been decided. The police’s areasoning for the increase of ALPR is that it will help reduce crime.

As of right now, the PAB’s position is to ask for more evidence that demonstrates that ALPR can be effective, and can be effective without violating civil liberties. Hansel Aguilar and Jose Murillo explained that the Board expressed four major concerns. First, the PAB is concerned about privacy and how easy it may be for a second party to access the data from ALPRs. The Board calls for more robust protection against potential civil rights violations. The PAB is also concerned with the lack of data to support that ALPR will help reduce crime. Next, there are concerns about the cost of ALPR. A few attendees said that it does not make sense to spend so much money on something that may not benefit the city. Finally, the PAB is worried that there is no clear guidelines for the usage of ALPR data.

At the end of the meeting, there was time for the community to voice their opinions. The majority voiced concerns about ALPR technology.  For example, one attendee raised an important point that criminals relatively easily adapt to ALPR; criminals could switch license plates to get around ALPR. The community was also concerned that ALPR will be used to target BIPOC people. Members of the community that expressed that they were in support of ALPR technology talked about how high Berkeley’s crime rates are and argued that the cameras will reduce the crime rate.

Attend the next Police Accountability Board meeting on July 12th at 6:30pm, where ALPR and body-worn cameras usage will be discussed. You can join via zoom here:


-Sabrina Zou


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