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Carlsbad Expanding Use of License Plate Readers

City leaders: goal is to gather license plate information from every vehicle entering Carlsbad

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     The License Plate Reader expansion project, which will add cameras to 14 intersections in Carlsbad, was approved by the City Council last week. NBC 7 Investigates' Mari Payton reports.

    (Published Monday, March 20, 2017)

    The License Plate Reader expansion project, which will cost over $1 million in its first year, was approved by the Carlsbad City Council last week.

    It will add cameras to 14 intersections in Carlsbad.

    In a presentation to the city council, a Carlsbad police captain said four patrol cars were equipped with license plate readers in 2011 and two remain in use.

    You can watch the meeting here

    Under the new program, the city will install the cameras on top of six patrol cars and on stationary traffic lights at 14 locations throughout Carlsbad.

    The cameras look at license plates and check the information against a law-enforcement database.

    It will be looking for hits about stolen vehicles, missing people and other police related cases.

    According to Carlsbad police, the data collected will be deleted after one year unless it's needed for a criminal investigation.

    Privacy rights advocates are concerned.

    They say clear cut laws are needed, to show when the information can be used.

    “If you put it at the entrances and exits to the city people are being tracked and if you had those in every city then that means you are being tracked wherever you go in the United States which I don't think is very American,” said Kellen Russoniello, with ACLU San Diego.

    At the council meeting, Carlsbad Police Captain Mickey Williams said, “We understand the importance of striking the right balance between safety and privacy. It's an ongoing conversation we are having with the community, especially as technology becomes more advanced."

    The use of stationary license plate readers, like those in Carlsbad, isn't common.

    More typically they are attached to patrol cars.

    NBC 7 Investigates found Agencies in San Diego County have been using those types of License Plate Readers to track a vehicle's location and movements on public roads and in parking lots since 2009. An NBC7 Investigates report last year, found the San Diego County Sheriff's Department had scanned more than 8 million license plates since March 2014.

    Read full investigation here.

    For a list of locations, click here.

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