‘If they don’t want it, I won’t force it’: Delano Police Chief said he plans to advise city council against license plate reading technology

July 1, 2019 /

The Delano Police Chief plans to advise against the implementation of automated license plate readers into Delano’s Police Department at Monday’s Delano City Council meeting. 

Police Chief Robert Nevarez said last month at a Community Law Enforcement Liaison Board meeting the technology could benefit the department in solving crime. At the same meeting, he also heard concerns with the technology from many community members, who fear their personal information could be shared with departments, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“Here’s the thing, I’m not against (the ALPRs),” Navarez told South Kern Sol. “I believe the technology is helpful in solving crime. I just think the negatives outweigh the benefits at this point in time. It just wouldn’t make sense to apply this technology. I’ll report this information back to the city council, so ALPR’s won’t come into action.” 

Automated License Plate Readers, provided by a company called Vigilant Solutions, allow police to read license plates and obtain information about the vehicle and the owner of the vehicle.  The technology automatically take pictures of license plate numbers with cameras on street lights or patrol cars. The photos are then uploaded to a database that stores information about the vehicle, driver and any personal information about the owner of the car. The city would choose who to share the information with.

After hearing the concerns from the community and how the technology could affect the undocumented population, Navarez said he didn’t want to break the trust he has thus far built with the residents.

“I’ve been building public trust, and this will just tear down everything I’ve been working on,” he said. “I have a heart for this community, and I see the dangers that license plate readers pose to it.”

Nevarez has participated in a number of outreach efforts to bridge relationships between law enforcement and the residents of Delano. He partakes in Cafe con Cempesinos events, where he drinks coffee and interacts with farm workers, and goes into barbershops to build relationships with community members there.

“I’m working with and for the community. If they don’t want it, I won’t force it on them.”

Although Nevarez is advising against ALPRs, others worry it could be brought back to the table at a future time.

“I don’t necessarily believe Nevarez will withhold the ALPR’s because he didn’t give a solid no,” said Veronica Vasquez, the democratic delegate for Assembly District 32. “I am afraid that this will get tabled, and he will try to sneak in later. I want to hear him publicly speak on it.” 

Despite Nevarez’s plans to advise against the technology, the Delano City Council will make the ultimate decision when they vote on the issue, schedule for Monday’s city council meeting.

“(Nevarez) has been pushing ALPR’s for so long that the city council is on board with this technology,” Vasquez said. “He has power and influence. He is acting like he can’t persuade the city council to reverse it.” 

The city council meeting is at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Delano City Hall. 

RELATED CONTENT: DELANO CHIEF OF POLICE ASSURES COMMUNITY PRIVATE INFORMATION IS SAFE WITH LICENSE PLATE SCANNING TECHNOLOGY

South Kern Sol is a youth-led journalism organization in Kern County. In their stories, youth reporters shine light on health and racial disparities in under-served communities across Kern. For more stories by South Kern Sol, head to southkernsol.org.

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Marco Rodriguez

Marco Rodriguez is a youth reporter from Delano for South Kern Sol.