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California city spending pandemic aid funds to fight smash-and-grab robberies

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The San Jose, Calif., city council has approved spending a portion of COVID-19 pandemic funds in an effort to combat smash-and-grab robberies in the Bay Area, according to CBS affiliate KPIX.

The city council unanimously voted to allocate $250,000 of pandemic funds toward license plate readers (LPRs). 

The $250,000 came from the $18.3 million the city received from the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan Act, according to KPIX. 

In a memo, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said LPRs would enable the San Jose Police Department to make arrests in smash-and-grab robberies, auto thefts and drive-by shootings. 

“Where culprits are attempting to evade the license plate readers, all the better because that’s a very clear warning, when we see folks covering their license plates, that those are drivers that should be pulled over,” Liccardo said in a memo. 

SJPD Assistant Chief of Police Paul Joseph said privately-funded LPRs have led to several arrests being made in the recent string of robberies, adding that it’s unclear what model LPR the police department will use but suggesting it could be a unit that’s moved around the city, KPIX reported. 

“We absolutely are going to take into account crime all throughout the city, and not just in any one particular spot,” said Joseph.

This comes as a south San Jose neighborhood previously installed privately-funded LPRs on residential buildings, and in 2016 SJPD began using the technology on a small number of police cars. 

However, Dave Maass, director of investigations at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, argued that paying $250,000 for license plate readers will not stop organized smash-and-grab robberies, KPIX noted. 

“I think when you have clever criminals like that, license plate readers are not going to deter them. I think that if any of your viewers think about license plate readers for more than five minutes, they will think about a way that you can get around them,” Maass told KPIX. 

“Because license plate readers are very good at capturing information on innocent people, but maybe not so good at capturing information on people who are willing to break the law,” he added.

Tags California License plate readers San Jose smash and grab

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