Small Eastside town considers license plate cameras

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by JOHN LANGELER / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @jlangelerKING5

KING5.com

Posted on July 21, 2013 at 5:35 PM

Updated Sunday, Jul 21 at 5:40 PM

The Town of Beaux Arts Village has just over 300 people, but homeowners said Sunday there’s a persistent problem of property crime.

“We’ve heard reports of packages getting taken,” said resident Julia Morse, who has been a victim of car prowling, “We did also have a string of mailbox break-ins.”

In response, last month the town council heard a presentation on license plate camera systems.  The equipment would be used to record every car that comes in and out of town to help law enforcement track down criminals.

“We get occasional break-ins,” said Mayor Richard Leider. “But with those break-ins rarely do we see a resolution.”

The system would cost around $150,000, a price tag the town may not be able to afford.

In addition, there are legal issues recently highlighted in an ACLU report on license plate cameras.  The report found police departments across the country frequently use the technology to track and retain information on innocent people as well, infringing on individual privacy.

“We’re talking about just recording license plates,” said Mayor Leider. “I don’t know if that is a constitutional issue or not.  To date, we’ve been told, no it does not.”

Around 22 Washington police departments use the license plate camera technology, according to the ACLU.  That includes Beaux Arts Village neighbors Medina, Clyde Hill and Hunts Point. 

Medina installed cameras several years ago, but in a recent presentation to the city council, its police department reported a “22 percent increase” in crime, “specific to the rise in vehicle prowls.”

Mayor Leider indicated the actuality of cameras being installed in Beaux Arts Village is “an uphill road” considering the costs.  There was no timetable for when a system may get more serious consideration, he added.

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