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Public Safety

Carlsbad Plans To Scan License Plates To Boost Safety

The city of Carlsbad plans to scan the license plates of all incoming cars by placing stationary cameras at key intersections in a bid to boost public safety.

The city will spend $1 million to add cameras at 14 intersections following a spike in property crime, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported Sunday.

Statistics show that most of those crimes were committed by suspects from other cities, police Capt. Mickey Williams said.


The plan approved last week by the City Council has some residents concerned about their privacy rights, with police able to monitor where they travel throughout the city.

"We need to look at this for what it is — mass surveillance," resident Noel Breen said.

The cameras automatically recognize license plates and check them against a law enforcement database that includes information about stolen vehicles and missing people.

Any data collected will be deleted after a year unless it's part of a criminal investigation, Williams said.

Carlsbad — which has about 110,000 residents in San Diego County — isn't the only Southern California city to use the license plate readers. Many use them on a more limited basis, affixing them to patrol cars.


In nearby Orange County, Laguna Beach also has placed the cameras at key entry points to the city.

KPBS has created a public safety coverage policy to guide decisions on what stories we prioritize, as well as whose narratives we need to include to tell complete stories that best serve our audiences. This policy was shaped through months of training with the Poynter Institute and feedback from the community. You can read the full policy here.