The use of technology that automatically scans license plates and stores that information is akin to “J. Edgar Hoover type tactics,” former ACLU Pasadena Foothill Branch President Ed Washatka said after seeing data gathered and collected from his own car by Automatic License Plate Readers (ALPRs).
ALPRs collect information on moving and parked cars. Some readers, are so advanced they can scan hundreds of license plates in less than a minute.
According to information retrieved through requests made under provisions of the state Public Records Act, Washatka learned that police scanned his vehicle 20 times between Oct. 15, 2016 and Aug. 19.
“The reality is that local police forces are collecting data mostly on local residents and employees so the database on them isn’t two years but perpetuity,” said Washatka. “Every day their license data is collected starts a new two-year clock. That’s ridiculous and a real overreach of police surveillance and conduct.”
Washatka’s vehicle was scanned 20 times — 14 times in the daytime and six times at night, from that total 11 times while he was parked near the Police Department, City Hall and the city Job Center on North Lake Avenue. Six scans contained no location information.
The Pasadena Community Job Center helps day laborers find work. Earlier this year, several marches protesting President Donald Trump’s immigration policies started at the Job Center which is located in the 500 block of North Lake Avenue, near Villa Street.
Hundreds of police departments around the country have started using ALPRs. The devices have been useful in retrieving stolen cars and some detective work.
On Saturday, a Rancho Cucamonga man was arrested after he threatened people preparing to run a marathon in Azusa with a rifle that turned out to be a replica, police said. Police were able to find the man quickly using ALPR data.
“I can assure your readers we are not building profiles on people,” said Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez. “And unless it’s investigatory, we are destroying the records two years after we collect them.”
Attorney Dale Gronemeier, who is representing Washatka, said the technology was good for identifying stolen cars or the location of persons under investigation, but called the storage of the records for two years “a perversion of legitimate law-enforcement goals that should not be tolerated.”