Jun 2 2013

OPINIONS: Piedmonters Differ on License Plate Readers

On June 3 the City Council will consider a contract with 3M Company to purchase 39 Automated License Plate Reader cameras for installation at 15 sites in Piedmont. Citizens have expressed varying opinions about the proposal:


Dear Mayor, Vice Mayor and City Councillors:


Thank you for so promptly attending to the fundamental issue of placing License Plate Readers at various entrances to Piedmont, which we are very much in support of.

As residents who live very close to the Oakland/Piedmont border, as well as to Scenic avenue (which has seen much crime activity lately) we urge that you consider placing a License Plate reader at the entrance to Piedmont from Blair/Harbord Avenue.

This will act as a major deterrent to criminal elements entering our city through this vital choke point.

Additionally we request that you place a prominent street sign at that point indicating that

” You are now entering Piedmont” so that intruders may be deterred from entering at all.


Best Regards

Stavros and Amanda Gougoumis


Dear City Council Members:


I am sorry to be writing you so late, but I have been travelling a lot and just haven’t had time to sit down and give you my thoughts on this important fiscal and crime issue.


I am very concerned that the positive response to License plate readers is a knee jerk response to our crime increases without sufficient study or documentation to determine if they in fact have any positive effect upon crime prevention or arrests. Early on, Chief Goede testified in front of you indicating that in Claremont, CA. they installed readers throughout the city. She gave statistics of 26 and 22 million “hits” over two years (2012 and 2011) with 166 arrests over that period. That is statistically irrelevant. It is 0.000003 arrests per hit. Statistically, there could have been that many arrests with or without the readers in place.  Crime is certainly a concern in town, but we don’t know if we had an unusual number of incidents in a short period or if it is really getting worse.


Please don’t make a significant financial mistake and proceed with the readers without more information. Unfortunately, Piedmont has had a record of “ready, fire, aim” which resulted in financial disasters over recent years including undergrounding expenditures and unreimbursed Blair Park costs. Both of those could have been averted with proper oversight, documentation and research.


Let’s not let this happen again. I urge you to study this situation more and get better  facts  and  research  before  spending  such  a  significant  amount  of  money.  Just because the City coffers are flush right now is no reason to spend money foolishly. There may be better and more efficient ways to control our crime issues.


Very Truly yours, Joseph Hurwich, CPA


Writing in The Piedmont Highlander, Piedmont High School student Kate Bott described the License Plate Readers proposed project as moving Piedmont closer to “the Big Brother scenario George Orwell describes in 1984…” 


I’m emailing to voice my support for installing License Plate Reader Cameras at each entrance and exit point of the city. Please make this part of the record.


Mary Peek



Dear City Council,

          Automatic License Plate Readers (ALPRs) are not a crime preventative tool. As Chief Goede stated referring to ALPRs:Its not a crime prevention tool, its more of an investigative tool on the back end.” At the Public Safety Committee meeting Chief Goede stated there have been no studies showing a correlation between the implementation of ALPRs and a reduction in crime.

         While convicting and sentencing criminals is desirable, criminals are unaware of which cities have a high conviction rate. So the high cost of the ALPRs is simply not justified even as a peripheral conviction tool. The primary function of the ALPRs is evidently to find stolen cars, but no assumption can be made that every criminal entering Piedmont is in a stolen car. And we have yet to be provided with the effectiveness of the single existing mobile ALPR that has been in service. Additionally, a person intent on committing a crime is likely unaware they are about to do it in Piedmont so even if criminals were aware of a high Piedmont conviction rate, they are likely unaware they are in Piedmont.

          “Force multiplier” is the use of digital information to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of Police. A direct means of implementing Police force multiplication is the use of predictive policing programs such as PredPol. Although in the testing phase, PredPol’s initial results have been positive in assigning probabilities of crime in space and time, implementing situational crime prevention and aiding in the most effective use of Police resources. Before our City spends $678,613 plus about $115,000 annually for a civilian ALPR monitor plus the unknown annual maintenance costs plus the thousands annual in connectivity costs plus the installation costs not covered in the 3M contract, the effectiveness of a predictive policing program should be considered.

Police patrolling is the backbone of good police work that stops crime. Criminals seeing officers patrolling is the most effective deterrent available. Can the efficiency of officer placement be enhanced by the use of predictive software? Regardless, Piedmont Police statistics consistently show a high incidence of burglaries and similar crimes committed during weekday daylight hours. Putting another officer on during these hours and in high crime areas would require about 1.66 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) Officers; the cost is about $300,000 but would not require the annual $115,000 non-sworn ALPR hire. Adding an additional officer when needed is less expensive than the ALPRs and directly more effective as a crime deterrent. We still do not have a good handle on the ongoing recurring maintenance costs of the ALPRs.

A guaranteed read rate is not specified in the 3M contract. Other companies that provide the ALPRs have such a specification. I ask Council to query the 3M representatives what the guaranteed read rate is of the cameras they are supplying.

We are all alarmed by the increase in crime and we all want to prevent crimes. We need directly preventative tools, not ALPRs.


Rick Schiller


Please add my name to support for license plate cameras & more street lighting on border streets.

Patricia Markovich


Too Much Money, Too Few Facts, Too Soon

Before spending more than $1 million, the City should research the effectiveness of license plate readers.

Is there any reliable evidence that license plate readers reduce crime?  If so, what is it?

What are other less expensive alternatives?  How about a cost/benefit analysis of the proposal and other altematives?

How would this unanticipated expenditure affect already-budgeted items?

The March 18 staff report implies that buying readers has been decided and it is just a matter of how fast it can be implemented:  “The ‘tum key’ approach should be given serious consideration from the standpoint of time and efficiency necessary to complete the project.”  (Page 2 of the staff report.)  Staffs outreach to 3M for bids after the Council meeting is more evidence.

Instead of making a decision for the Council by presenting only one altemative, staff should have offered altematives to the Council for public consideration  The staff report does not precisely define the problem or explain how readers work to reduce crime, and it does not present any altematives.  There is no analysis.  The report gives the Council no real choice.  Nor does it support its recommendation  with any data whatsoever about the effectiveness of the single solution proposed.

It looks and feels as if the decision had been made before the Council even started its consideration in public.

The Public Safety Committee should ask staff for (1) deeper and broader analysis of multiple options to reduce crime and for (2) an analysis of the effect of pulling $!million out of the budget for this unforeseen expense–before the Committee reports back to the City Council.

Linda Roodhouse Loper


On January 21, 2013 two Piedmont families were victims of violent “take-over” home invasion robberies by gun point. BULLETS were fired at them! Home invasions, crime and its impact has escalated over the years in Piedmont and especially along our city border-line with Oakland. Over the years “Proactive Patrolling, Police Presence, Response and Chase” along Piedmont’s 24 entry points and high crime Baja neighborhood’s has diminished to unacceptable levels.

Piedmont police…..willingly………..”broke off chase”……… of the home invasion suspects. At the February 12, 2013 public meeting, Chief Rikki Goede admitted:

Piedmont’s Police Department policy is…..NOT TO CHASE CARS OR SUSPECTS.

The City of Piedmont website states: “Patrol is the Backbone of Policing”

There are over 7500 law enforcement agencies throughout the United States. Many of them proudly agree and say the exact same phrase that “patrolling” is the backbone of policing.

How much time can officers devote to patrolling?

Answer: Responding to assigned calls and conducting general surveillances by “patrolling” are the two most time consuming sorts of patrol activities. In most places assigned calls take considerably less than half of officers work time. Patrolling the beat usually takes a higher proportion of time. (Whitaker Study 1982)

On the average, about 5 hours of an officer’s 8-hour shift are spent at the officer’s discretion, while 3 hours are spent on assigned tasks. (US Dept. of Justice-National Institute of Justice)

How many miles should patrol officers drive-per shift?

Answer: There are 1000’s of rural & metro law enforcement agency’s in the United States.

The “miles driven” answer is derived & recognized in several ways. Most large (spread- out) police departments have no minimum or maximum driving expectations (miles) of their patrol car officers. Their patrol officers will be patrolling 100’s of miles. But, the smaller departments (under 20 officers) tend to have unwritten policies and practices related to minimizing or maximizing mileage patrol goals. There are frugal police department’s that mandate their patrol vehicle’s sit idle for 10 minutes of each hour to save on high fuel costs.

Less patrolling miles result in fewer arrests and less impact to the city’s overall budget. But, reading the law enforcement literature, surveys, and studies, the general accepted rule & practice is a metro patrol officer should be “patrolling” 8 miles for each hour worked. If a patrol officer in Piedmont works 10 hours then his/her odometer should register and record 80 more miles on that vehicle. A large segment of patrol officers across the country, routinely clock in, as many as 100-150+ “patrolling” miles per work shift.

(officer’s.com, realpolice.net, policechiefmagazine.org)

How many miles have Piedmont police cars been patrolling?

Answer: Piedmont replaced several of its patrol police cars in 2010. They had been used for 51 months and the average mileage on each car was 45,000 miles. So Piedmont patrol cars had been driven an average of 29 miles per (24 hour) day. In a 24 hour period this is 1.2 miles per hour of patrol function. Human walking speed is about 3+ miles per hour.


Police officers and Command Staff are compensated quite well in Piedmont considering the small size of the City. The compensation packages include lucrative Pension and Benefits which are unsurpassed in California. Given the cost, the Department should adhere to the  “recognized” standard that “Patrol is the backbone of policing”. The law enforcement patrolling expectations in Piedmont should match the minimum practices in use across the country. Piedmont’s small footprint of 1.658 sq. miles and nonexistent traffic congestion creates a unique situation of straightforward and uncomplicated Police patrol capability.

City Administrator Grote & Chief Goede need to prepare a new “policy” paper and directive as to “Patrolling Practices, Expectations & Recording” of all Piedmont patrol officers.

This new “Patrolling” directive should include and outline these minimum requirements:

1. Patrol officers will log/record odometer readings at the start & end of each day work shift.

2. PPD (Chief Goede) will collect data and prepare/present monthly accounting log and report of the total miles driven by “all” patrol cars, areas driven, responding to calls, etc…….

3. All collected patrol data information will be posted on the City’s website.

License plate readers are a bureaucratic gimmick to give tax-payers a false sense of security. There is no substitution for proper (pro-active) police patrol on the street.

Piedmont should direct & invest its limited resources on proper police patrol procedures and hiring another patrol officer…..for the street.

Thank You,

Neil Teixeira


Dear City Councilmembers:

In evaluating whether license plate readers are worth the capital and ongoing investment, and recognizing that such investment takes funds away from other worthy projects in the CIty, I request that you consider whether the license plate readers are effective in preventing or deterring crime, and then, secondarily, whether they help catch criminals after a crime has been committed. Question that need to be answered:

(1) I gather that the LPRs can quickly identify whether a recorded license plate is on a “hotsheet” of stolen vehicles. Aremost crimes committed by criminals driving stolen vehicles? (If no, then the utility o fthe LPRs is less for prevention; if yes, finding the stolen vehicle after a crime is less likely to find the criminal).

(2) If crimes are committed by people driving stolen vehicles, how quickly do our surrounding cities get the license numbers of stolen vehicles into the database checked by the LPRs? We read that Oakland’s limited police force is focused on violent crimes. If so, does it take hours or days for a stolen vehicle’s license plates to get in the database?

(3) If crimes are committed in Piedmont by people driving stolen vehicles, how long before they commit a crime does such a person steal a vehicle? Are they stolen the same day that the thief plansto to commit a burglary or robbery in Piedmont? If so, what is the chance that the vehicle’s license plate number will be in the stolen vehicle database?

(4) If a crime is committed in Piedmont, and no stolen cars show up through the LPRs, what use does the PoliceDeptintend to make of the LPR data? Is there a database of former felon’s license plate numbers to see if a former felon drove through town that day? Would the Police Dept have the man power to follow up such leads? What other use could be made of the data to catch the criminal?

(5) What other City projects need funding that will not receive it if the LPRs are funded?

(6) If the funds for the LPR were devoted to hiring another police officer, how many years salary and benefits would be covered by those funds?

I look forward to your deliberations.

Richard W. Raushenbush



One Response to “OPINIONS: Piedmonters Differ on License Plate Readers”

  1. Dear Mayor Chaing and Council Members,

    I am in full support of the expenditure on and placement of LPRs for the City of Piedmont. Thank you for your continued hard work on behalf of the City.

    Patty White

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