After reading Don Shoecraft's opinion piece titled “License plate readers imperil privacy protections” in the April 21 issue of the Daily Journal, it is quite obvious that Mr. Shoecraft doesn't have any experience or knowledge of crime prevention techniques in the fields of law enforcement and security. If he did, he would know that the use of license plate readers are not only to catch criminals after they commit a crime, but, they are used more as a deterrent and prevention.

Shoecraft's statistics comparing the number of license plates recorded versus the number of arrests is only a tiny part of the story. What's even more important is the statistics, year to date, of the overall decrease in all crimes in the community with license plate readers. What would people want, to catch only 10% of the criminals that came into their community, or, to prevent or deter a crime from happening in their community in the first place?

Mr. Shoecraft also appears to have a lack of knowledge about the law when it comes to privacy. Otherwise, if he did, he would know that under the law, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy whenever people are in public areas, including streets, sidewalks, parks, etc. He would also know that there are federal and state laws that govern the collection, use, sharing or selling of personal data. He would also know that the city government employees have a lawful duty to make sure any contract with a private vendor follows the law.

Bottom line, if you aren't doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about!

Michael Oberg

San Mateo

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(6) comments

Terence Y

Wow, Mr. Oberg! I’m actually in agreement with you on this. Maybe we have more in common than I thought, as long as politics isn’t part of the mix. I wonder if private citizens are able to purchase license plate readers. Law enforcement could then request access to data, similar to data from home security Nest and doorbell video cameras. Or as a private citizen, I could just give them direct access to the feed. A small price to pay for deterrence and prevention.

SMPOA President

Terence Y, private citizens can purchase license plate readers and have the option to share that data with law enforcement.


I would guess that even if you buy a reader as a private citizen you would not get access to the info needed to identify the owners etc., at least I would hope not.

Terence Y

Taffy, The main purpose I would install a reader would be as a deterrent, similar to security cameras. If data can help law enforcement to solve crimes, local, or otherwise, that would be a plus. As for getting info on owners of cars, I wouldn’t think most private citizens would need that information. BTW, do you live in a high-traffic corridor? Would you entertain a reader installed at your house? I still have a few Biden bucks I haven't donated to our great President Trump.

Terence Y

Thank you for the information, Mr. SMPOA President. I’ll spread the word. Also, at the next neighborhood watch meeting I’m going to propose we look into installing a few of these readers in houses overlooking high traffic streets. If everyone pitches in, the cost per house will be reduced.

SMPOA President

I know of some HOA’s that have purchased license plate readers. They do serve as a deterrent. And the software that accompanies these systems to not provide personally identifiable information to the consumer, even to law enforcement. We have to access other secure systems to obtain that information. The systems log license plates, photos of vehicles and are capable of alerting enforcement when a stolen vehicle or otherwise wanted vehicle has been detected.

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