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Lathrop may buy license plate scanners

To surveil or not to surveil.

That is the question that will be before the Lathrop City Council when they meet tonight to consider whether spending $425,000 to upgrade the city’s existing camera surveillance system and equip the city’s busiest intersections with license plate readers that will assist law enforcement in investigations.

The council – which meets at Lathrop City Hall, located at 390 Towne Centre Drive, on the second Monday of every month – will discuss the matter formally after it was pulled from a council agenda earlier this year to allow staff more time to look into the options that are available for the services that the city is seeking.

“The battle against crime is a difficult one, and it is never-ending,” the City of Lathrop wrote in the staff report for the reintroduced item. “Governmental agencies throughout the region are increasingly accessing the surveillance systems to enhance citizen safety and help prevent crime.

“Some neighboring cities have already deployed surveillance technology, which could allow for the sharing of information, and assist in identifying wanted criminals that may travel throughout the City of Lathrop and neighboring jurisdictions.”

According to the staff report, the city is looking to install the cameras the intersections of Harlan Road and Louise Avenue, Golden Valley and River Islands Parkway, Harlan and Lathrop Roads, and Lathrop Road and 5th Street. The city will consider adding Golden Valley Parkway and Lathrop Road to the list of intersections that will be outfitted with the camera once the traffic signal is installed at Louise and McKinley Avenues once the intersection improvements that are also on the agenda will be completed.

Currently Lathrop utilizes Motorola security cameras at several locations, according to the staff report, and with the company’s recent acquisition of one of the nation’s leading manufacturers of license plate readers – Livermore-based Vigilant Solutions – the company would likely be tapped to outfit the strategic locations already laid out. The city has already tested a new camera from the company that utilizes technology that allows for it to cover multiple lanes of traffic with a single lens – meaning that less cameras would need to be installed to monitor the flow of traffic through some of the city’s busiest intersections.

The project, however, won’t be without some controversy.

The company that provides the license plate reading technology, Vigilant Solutions, has come under fire by civil liberties activists for its practice of sharing information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement that is then used to proceed with deportation proceedings against suspected illegal immigrants. The American Civil Liberties Union sued the company to find out who they do business with in Northern California, and Manteca’s name landed on the list because of an old police vehicle that had a license plate reader attached to it even though the department hadn’t used the vehicle or the service for more than a year.

The proposal also called for the purchase of mobile trailer capable of performing the same tasks with the added benefit of being deployable to strategic locations as needed.

The proposed cost of outfitting each intersection with the necessary cameras was listed at $30,500, and the total cost for the initial proposal – which would outfit six locations in the city including the mobile trailer – would be $250,000. An additional $175,000 would have been needed for electricity and wireless service at each of the camera locations, and the purchase of additional mobile surveillance equipment as needed is also being included in the proposal for a total cost of $425,000.

If the council moves forward with the reintroduced proposal, the $250,000 cost of the cameras and the trailer would come from Measure C – which has been utilized by the city to pay for essential city services such as traffic signals in the past – while the $175,000 contingency for the installation and expansion would come from existing salary savings. The Measure C oversight committee has also signed off on the use of the sales tax revenue for the purchase of the camera system.

To obtain a copy of the staff report or see the agenda for tonight’s monthly business meeting visit the City of Lathrop’s website at


To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.