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Sheriff Looking To Expand License Tag Reader Program

Sheriff Looking To Expand License Tag Reader Program

    License plate reading equipment could soon be expanded on Lake County road right-of-ways, after a majority of the Lake County Commission on Tuesday voiced consensus approval to a program presented by Lake County Sheriff Peyton Grinnell.  
    Grinnell was in front of the commission seeking to gauge sentiment toward an expanded surveillance system that would link cameras on major roadways with law enforcement databases to locate license plates, and by association people, that have been put in those databases. Tuesday's presentation comes after the county put in place policies requiring pre-approval for such programs after reading equipment associated with the sheriff's office was installed last year without commission approval or with the sheriff's direct knowledge.
    “Is it worth me going through this process?” asked Grinnell during an extended debate on the merits of finding wanted vehicles and potentially reducing crime versus the risks to individual privacy.
    The consensus was yes, with some limits.
    Commissioner Josh Blake voiced the strongest concern that the system could be used to track or otherwise inappropriately target the general population, citing abuse that at times has been reported in some law enforcement entities.
    “Of course there are pros,” he said, “but we are tasked with considering the cons.  I don’t want to set up some infrastructure” that could be used against law-abiding citizens, he said.
    The rest of the commission, however, voiced a consensus belief that safeguards put in place, as well as regular reviews of plate search activity, could go a long way in reducing or eliminating abuse.
    Grinnell echoed that belief, stating that procedures put in place are designed to minimize the risk of abuse, and that his agency has in the past arrested a deputy that had behaved inappropriately.
    “We have arrested one of our own.”
    Commission chair Sean Parks, while agreeing there was a risk of abuse, joined the majority in voicing initial support for the plan, citing the need to find out if known criminals are entering the county.
    “Once you get a reputation for high crime, it is hard to get back.”
    Leslie Campione, whose district includes north Lake County, said she would be looking for 'some assurance' concerning individual privacy, with a discussion of regular audits of the system as one way to safeguard cameras are only being used for intended purposes.
    Commissioner Kirby Smith supported the proposal as well.
    "Our license plates are already being read every day.  I see this as a huge benefit to Lake County."
    Grinnell said not allowing the cameras would be a mistake.
    “To not allow these cameras is doing a disservice” to public safety.
    The next step will be for Grinnell to formally apply for permits to place cameras, which could cost as much as $50,000 per intersection according to presenters on Tuesday.  Once the application is received, the issue will come before the commission again, at which time more public input would be accepted.