Saratoga neighborhoods will now be able to use their property tax assessment funds to purchase Automatic License Plate Reader cameras after the city council approved the move at its Wednesday night meeting.

Flock’s ALPRs are meant to track stolen vehicles and deter crime. The city purchased and installed seven ALPRs earlier this year after council allocated $20,000 and created a pilot program.

Council voted Dec. 21 to allow neighborhoods to use the city’s Landscaping and Lighting Assessment District framework as a way to fund more cameras and place them neighborhood entrances. The decision also expands the coverage of cameras in the city.

Saratoga has seen a 34% increase in residential burglaries, including auto theft, this year compared to last year.

“This is something that the council discussed earlier. This helps the residents create new districts if needed, it’s a great way to move forward with Flock cameras,” councilmember Tina Walia said.

Cameras funded through this process are paid for through property tax assessments on homes in the assessment district. The cameras are added to the city’s system and sent directly to the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office.

The cameras capture vehicle license plates and compare them with Sheriff’s Office databases to alert authorities when a plate matches a listing. The data are collected for six months and then deleted unless the information is needed in an investigation or arrest.

Some research shows that the license plate readers are not as effective as they claim.

A study from Jonathan Hofer of Oakland’s The Independent Institute that analyzed 16 years of stolen vehicle data from Piedmont revealed no statistical evidence to show ALPRs have deterred motor theft or given law enforcement leads.

Other Bay Area cities like Fremont, Alameda, San Jose, Los Gatos and Los Altos Hills are participating in similar programs.

The neighborhoods’ cameras will be a part of Saratoga’s system, and only the Sheriff’s Office will have access to the data. These cameras can remain in place as long as the neighborhood funds them.


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