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Lathrop moving forward with license plate scanners
Photo contributed An example of vehicles license plate scanners mounted on traffic signal poles.

Last month the Lathrop City Council approved the purchase of a number of Motorola surveillance cameras capable of scanning vehicle license plates that check against a vast database that is maintained by law enforcement. 

And according to an item that is on the agenda for the upcoming meeting of the council – which will take place on Monday, May 13, at 7 p.m. at Lathrop City Hall, located at 390 Towne Centre Drive – the city will need to take no additional steps towards adopting a policy governing how the information is collected by the cameras or who can access it. 

Those policies, it turns out, are already in place. 

Because the City of Lathrop contracts with the County of San Joaquin for police services, the information collected by the cameras will be maintained by the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office, which already has policies in place regarding license plate readers and the way in which the information they collect is stored, secured, and shared. 

According to that policy, in order to maintain the highest standard of privacy, none of the information that is collected can be distributed to the public or viewed by the public for any reason – only authorized law enforcement agencies that have the legal authority to request the information may do so, and only if formal steps are taken. 

But even with those safeguards in place, the company that provides the technology utilized in Lathrop’s new cameras – which will be strategically placed at the majority of the city’s major intersections – has come under fire this year for reportedly working with federal authorities, potentially in violation of California law. 

California law currently prohibits law enforcement agencies from knowingly sharing information with Federal authorities that will be used for purposes of furthering immigration proceedings.

A representative from the ACLU called for local agencies to stop using the software and said that the lawsuit that was filed to receive the documentation that was reviewed is typically the first step in a wider lawsuit that may be filed in the future. 

Because the City of Lathrop will not own any of the information that is being collected, it is unlikely that they will be legally responsible for the data that is collected. 

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.