In a meeting where residents expressed concerns about sharing private information with law enforcement, the Delano Chief of Police assured residents their personal information is safe with a new technology program the police department is considering using.
Delano’s Community Law Enforcement Liaison Board held two meetings last month to address community concerns with Automated License Plate Readers, which would allow police to read license plates and obtain information about the vehicle and the owner of the vehicle. Many Delano residents said they fear their private information could be released to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, affecting the undocumented population in Delano.
“I get the concern that ICE has been able to get into the system,” Delano Chief of Police Robert Nevarez said at a meeting held May 16. “That should never have happened, and I’ll tell you right now, if I do not assure that the information won’t be shared with ICE, I won’t even bring it forward. I’ll kill it myself.”
ALPRs, provided by a company called Vigilant Solutions, automatically take pictures of license plate numbers with cameras on street lights or patrol cars, along with the location, date and time. The photos are then uploaded to a data base that includes the vehicle, driver and personal information. The city would choose who to share the information with.
Nevarez said the technology could benefit the department in solving crime. He said it could be used as a tool to find leads or evidence is facing an unsolved murder case.
“I already knew there was a lot of murders (in Delano),” Nevarez said at the May 23 meeting. “I didn’t know when I came to Delano how many were unsolved. A lot of the murders in the city go unsolved.”
Nevarez used the technology for ten years when he worked in law enforcement in Fresno, and during that time, information was not released to ICE, he told Delano residents.
However, concerns come from a recent report by The American Civil Liberties Union, which showed the data collected by the ALPRs are shared with ICE.
“The automated license plate readers have been known to be used by law enforcement under the ideology that it is to crackdown on crime,” said liaison board member Juan Hernandez. “But it has been proven time and time again it is yet another technology that is violently targeting undocumented immigrants and communities.”
Vigilant Solutions has an active contract with ICE until 2020, according to Hernandez. The technology allows ICE to enter the system, leaving the undocumented community of Delano at risk for deportation, said ACLU staffer Stephanie Padilla.
“Even if you decide not to share data with ICE when you’re contracting with Vigilant Solutions and using these sorts of systems, once that information is out of your hands, you can’t control how other agencies use it,” Padilla said at the May 23 meeting.
“Delano, like almost any other city in Kern County is a city of immigrants, and I’m afraid it’s going to increase the fear that undocumented people have,” said Bernice Bonillas, vice president of the California Alliance for Retired Americans.
At the end of both meetings, Navarez did not say whether the department is going to use the technology.
“I’m trying to find a balance,” Nevarez said. “I want to come up with another way solve the problem.”
The Delano City Council voted in May with 3-2 vote to table a motion to approve to sign up for a Vigilant Solution program. The council is expected to reconsider the proposal at a future city council meeting. The next city council meeting is July 1 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.
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