San Jose may enlist garbage trucks as eyes on the ground for a short-staffed police force.
Equipping trash haulers with license plate readers would turn them into roving scouts for the San Jose Police Department. Already, the trucks travel every city street every single week, covering more ground than a cop car.
Councilman Johnny Khamis proposed the idea with support from his colleague Raul Peralez—a former policeman—and Mayor Sam Liccardo.
“As we continue to struggle to recruit and retain police officers, it is imperative that we utilize any technologies at our disposal to thwart crime,” reads a joint memo submitted to Wednesday’s Rules and Open Government Committee.
The city tabbed $68,400 in this year’s budget for two new plate scanners. Typically, the high-speed cameras are mounted on police cruisers, where they photograph thousands of plates a minute.
“Mounting these readers on … garbage trucks would be a unique and effective strategy,” per the memo signed by Liccardo, Khamis and Peralez.
Garbage trucks traverse the entire city every week, which would allow police to scan every car along the way. City officials say they could run plates for warrants and check for stolen vehicles.
Privacy advocates have warned about the proliferation of these plate scanners. San Francisco has strapped plate-reading cameras on city buses to identify bus stop-blocking cars to tow. Other cities have affixed them to traffic signals and bridges. They’ve also been deployed for civilian uses, including repo companies.
A leading concern among privacy advocates—including the American Civil Liberties Union—is how the data is stored and analyzed. License plates are meant to be public and reading them isn’t a violation of privacy, per se. But when millions of scans collected from various places are compiled and viewed together, patterns emerge and the activity of everyday citizens can become easily tracked.
In the Bay Area, law enforcement agencies ferry that information to a data fusion center called the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center.
San Leandro-based computer security consultant Michael Katz-Lacabe learned firsthand how much detail those scans convey when he asked his city’s police department to hand over photos of his car. The records request turned up 112 photos, including one with his two daughters snapped in their own driveway.
Liccardo, Peralez and Khamis will consult the city attorney to review the legality of their proposal. They also question the civil liberty implications of placing scanners collecting investigative data on trucks owned by private companies.
- After learning that just about half the City Council broke city election law in the past year, officials have set about revising those rules to avoid further confusion. At its Aug. 12 meeting, San Jose’s Ethics Commission drafted a list of suggested changes. One of those recommendations asks to eliminate the $1,000 minimum penalty for late filing. The city aims to have the revisions approved by Dec. 10, when candidates can start raising money for the June 2016 primary.
- San Jose may study the possibility of raising the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. The proposal signed by Liccardo and council members Manh Nguyen and Chappie Jones cites similar wage hikes in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. But they caution the city to consider the regional impacts. “Such wage increases … tend to ignore the critical efforts of nonprofits who seek to provide a path to self-sufficiency through job training and entry-level employment for the hardest-to-employ, such as teens and ex-convicts in reentry programs,” they wrote. “We aspire to avoid those common mistakes with a thoughtful approach that lifts the tide for all residents, without leaving any underwater.”
- Meanwhile, city officials are figuring out how to bring transportation rules up to date to accommodate the influx of ride-hailing apps Uber and Lyft. “Some items of interest may be, but not limited to, aligning, fingerprint/background checks, drug and alcohol testing and vehicle inspections,” according to the proposal by council members Rose Herrera, Don Rocha, Khamis and Peralez.
- Finally, San Jose Inside will appeal the city's denial of a records request. Last month, news editor Josh Koehn asked for SJPD Assistant Chief Eddie Garcia's emails. The city denied the request, saying those had nothing to do with the public's business.
WHAT: Rules and Open Government Committee meets
WHEN: 2pm Wednesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260