Benicia City Council to mull approving installation of 45 license plate readers throughout city

by John Glidden | May 13, 2021

BENICIA – The Benicia City Council will be asked Tuesday to approve a two-year lease agreement with Flock Group Inc. for the installation of 45 automated license plate readers (ALPR) throughout the city of Benicia.

If approved, the project would cost the city $236,250, with Benicia paying $5,000 for each license plate reader over the two years, plus a one-time installation cost of $250 per camera. The project will be funded from the Measure C Fund for the first two years, with the police department’s operations budget picking up the tab for any subsequent years.

Benicia Police Chief Mike Greene is proposing the cameras be installed around all of the city ‘s entry and exit points, including Rose Drive and Columbus Drive, Military West at Interstate-780, Lake Herman and Reservoir Road, East 2nd and Rose Drive, and East 2nd and Lake Herman, according to a staff report to the council.

Cameras would also be “added protection to the downtown area,” with several other license plate readers being installed in designated areas around the city’s industrial park, Greene added in his report.

Proposed locations of 45 automated license plate readers in the city of Benicia. (Courtesy city of Benicia)

“With a majority of the cannabis businesses scheduled to operate out of the Industrial Park, staff feels that the installation of Flock ALPR cameras would also address some of the safety concerns brought forth by Benicia citizens, voiced during past Council Meetings, regarding cannabis businesses operating in Benicia,” Greene wrote.

ALPRs are high-speed camera systems which automatically capture all license plate numbers and upload the data to a server. They are usually mounted to street poles, highway overpasses, streetlights, and can even be attached to police vehicles.

Many of the concerns with such equipment centers on privacy and security issues, the tracking of non-criminals, and the possible misuse by the police department.

“I have a lot of trust in the police department and Chief Greene,” said Benicia Mayor Steve Young when asked for his opinion about the new license plate readers.

Young said he was satisficed that the ALPRs would be trained on license plates and not at the people driving, which could be used to profile drivers coming and going in the city.

In his same staff report, Greene wrote that the system “does not have video recording capabilities” and only approved staff members would have access to the system.

“This mandatory login process allows the Department’s administration to oversee and audit exactly when, who and why the Flock ALPR system was utilized,” Greene wrote. “Flock has taken extreme safety measures to ensure that their collected data is safe and secure. ALPRs allow a better and safer policing by reducing the number of unnecessary contacts between law enforcement and the public, as well as providing more tangible evidence to solve and prosecute crime within the City limits.”

Greene said data would be saved for 30 days. If approved, Benicia would join other Solano County cities that use the Flock camera system, including the cities of Vallejo, Rio Vista, and Vacaville.

Recently, the Vallejo City Council accepted a $30,000 grant Urban Area Security Initiative for the purchase of license plate readers to be installed around the Vallejo Ferry Terminal, and nearby parking garage.

“These locations are centrally located and include high amounts of pedestrian/vehicular traffic, community events and access to commuter water ways,” according to report from Vallejo Police Chief Shawny Williams to the council. “This lends this area to be perceived as a target for anyone wishing to initiate a mass casualty event of man made disaster.”

If approved, installation of the cameras will begin in August.

The Benicia City Council will meet at 7 p.m., Tuesday, via teleconference.

Members of the public may provide public comments to the City Clerk by email at
lwolfe@ci.benicia.ca.us.

The meeting can be viewed by watching Channel 27, livestream online at http://www.ci.benicia.ca.us/agendas, or via Zoom meeting:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89071352086?pwd=UklmWUxRc01JeVpvZjQ0bzVUYkgwZz09
• If prompted for a password, enter 821445. Use participant option to “raise hand” during the public comment period for the item you wish to speak on.


JohnGlidden.com is an independent news blog covering the cities of Vallejo and Benicia.  If you appreciate the journalism on this site, please consider making a contribution.

Published by John Glidden

John Glidden is a freelance journalist reporting on the city of Vallejo. The native Vallejoan also covers the local school district, Vallejo elections, and public safety.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: