‘Commuter Criminals’ Lead to Privacy Concerns

A small California town in the San Francisco bay studied its crime statistics and found a surprising trend: most of the convicted criminals were from other counties. These “commuter criminal” were responsible for the majority of the town’s modest 99 thefts, 20 burglaries and two auto thefts in 2008, according to police.

Tiburno, Calif., is located on a peninsula in the North Bay, with only two roads leading in and out of town. Police want to set up cameras on the roadways to keep track of every person going to and from Tiburno, according to Yahoo news.

The cameras would photograph the rear license plate of every car as it passes through the city limits.

While cameras on America’s highways have been used for decades to track speeding and other traffic violations, Tiburno’s situation is rare, because it would effectively allow police to know the location of each of its 9,000 citizens.

“The point is we live in a land where people are considered innocent until proven guilty,” said privacy rights attorney Melissa Ngo. “Not a land where it’s supposed to be — prove that you’re not doing anything wrong by letting us watch you do everything.”

Critics say the system would violate privacy rights and search and seizure laws. However, police insist that if the plan goes forward, there would be effective safeguards in place.

The photos would not be used for traffic enforcement, and would not be available for public record. Photos would only show the license plate, and not the driver. Photos would be erased after 30 to 60 days, and the record would only be looked into in the investigation of a crime.

“There’d be just none of the real-time monitoring that people worry about or that we’re somehow wanting to be unfriendly or discourage visitors in any way,” Curran said.

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