Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office plans to deploy cameras to read license plates

Oct. 21—Santa Fe County deputies will quickly be a part of different space legislation enforcement officers who use cameras outfitted with license plate-recognition expertise to observe automobiles on roadways.

The expertise can mechanically detect and retailer license plate numbers utilizing cameras positioned on poles alongside roads or mounted on patrol automobiles. It has been praised by police as an unprecedented instrument for lowering crime, however critics have raised considerations in regards to the potential for abuse and mass surveillance.

The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Workplace plans to put in the cameras within the coming months, following set up of comparable expertise by New Mexico State Police and companies in Española, Pojoaque and Albuquerque.

Undersheriff Ken Johnson mentioned the workplace is planning to deploy cell cameras on 20 patrol automobiles — in a fleet of about 50 — and arrange two fastened cameras within the county and two cell “quick-deploy items” that may be moved to completely different places.

The expertise sends alerts to officers when cameras detect license plate numbers linked to stolen automobiles or different crimes.

The system has not been bought, Johnson mentioned, however the sheriff’s workplace has obtained a quote from Vigilant Options, a subsidiary of Motorola. Officers plan to make use of $600,000 in state funding for the acquisition, which was accepted by the Santa Fe County Fee earlier this month.

Johnson mentioned will probably be a number of months earlier than the cameras are put in.

“We’ll deploy them as we’d like them, in areas the place we both have an uptick in crime or for an investigation,” he mentioned.

The cameras might be a “useful gizmo” for deputies, Johnson mentioned, by serving to them discover stolen automobiles and drivers with warrants or expired registrations.

“By having that info available, I believe it should help us in lowering crime in drawback areas,” he mentioned.

Automated license plate recognition expertise has drawn concern from some civil rights advocates, who argue the methods may very well be used to trace sure drivers’ whereabouts.

Jennifer Burrill, a public defender and president of the New Mexico Legal Protection Attorneys Affiliation, mentioned such methods quantity to a “phishing expedition.”

“There ought to must be some violation of the legislation that is seen with a view to make a cease,” Burrill mentioned, although she acknowledged courts have dominated in favor of departments utilizing computerized license plate readers.

At the very least 17 states have handed legal guidelines that regulate use of the expertise by legislation enforcement and personal entities, with limits to the period of time license plate knowledge will be saved and the way it may be shared, in line with the Nationwide Convention of State Legislatures. No such legislation has been handed in New Mexico.

The American Civil Liberties Union recommends departments undertake insurance policies that present for the deletion of information that does not create “hits” inside three minutes, as required below New Hampshire legislation. Different states permit for knowledge to be saved for as much as 150 days.

A Division of Public Security coverage for using computerized license plate readers by New Mexico State Police requires many of the knowledge collected by the system to be purged each 10 days. The Albuquerque Police Division’s coverage requires knowledge to be purged after 14 days.

The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Workplace doesn’t but have a coverage on using license plate readers, however Johnson mentioned it’s working to develop a coverage and plans to have it in place earlier than the cameras are deployed.

No determination has been made about limits to retaining knowledge within the system, he added.

This system may have a chosen administrator, Johnson mentioned, and the division will carry out inner audits regularly to “make sure the system is getting used correctly.”

Santa Fe police don’t use computerized license plate readers, however Deputy Chief Ben Valdez mentioned the division examined the expertise a number of years in the past and located it was efficient in addressing stolen automobiles.

The price of the system was “an enormous barrier,” Valdez mentioned, however police have a lot of the gear in place, equivalent to car-mounted cameras, that may very well be used for a license plate-recognition program.

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