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Say cheese! La Cañada Council to consider crook-catching cameras

Stationary Automated License Plate Reader Camera
The La Cañada City Council will consider using Flock Safety license plate reader cameras, like ones recently installed in Escondido, to catch criminals.
(File photo)

The La Cañada Flintridge City Council will consider Tuesday implementing a plan to install Automated License Plate Reader cameras at key intersections and entry points throughout the city to respond to residential burglaries, looking at a few different options.

Stationary cameras, which cost about $15,000 per unit plus installation, can capture and relay license plate information taking hundreds of pictures per minute as vehicles enter the city or pass certain intersections, even at speeds over 100 mph.

Their capabilities are limited, however — they can only focus on one lane of traffic and are unable to read paper dealership plates — and the 40 to 55 units required to cover the city would range from $612,000 to $841,500.

Mobile license plate reader cameras can be affixed to a law enforcement vehicle and can capture images in multiple directions, flagging suspicious vehicles or those listed in the sheriff’s database in connection to a warrant, car theft or other crime.

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Much cheaper than their stationary counterparts — costing about $4,675 per unit through a five-year lease — they are limited in that they can capture data only where vehicles travel. The city estimates mobile and stationary units would take three to six months to install.

A third, brand-new option are Flock Safety ALPR camera systems, currently being piloted by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Technology and Support Division in two San Gabriel Valley cities, according to a city report.

The stationary, solar-powered cameras cost $2,000 per unit and are Wi-Fi enabled, so they can relay alerts in real time to patrol vehicles. They can also read paper license plates and monitor two lanes of traffic at once, which means from 23 to 36 units would be needed to cover the city for an estimated total cost of $46,000 to $72,000.

La Cañada’s Public Safety Commission, which recommended the purchase of an additional mobile ALPR unit in 2018, showed favor in an October meeting for examining the Flock Safety camera systems, although the program is still new and has yet to be adopted as part of the Sheriff’s Department policy.

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The City Council on Tuesday will hear comments from interested residents and consider all available options.

Also Tuesday, council members will hear public safety presentations from the sheriff’s and fire departments, hear findings of an internal audit on the city’s Financial Department and be updated on the activities of a Community Development Subcommittee, before reviewing a request for proposals for additional Building and Safety Services.

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