So, the City Council, without a public vote, has decided that the Police Department must install license plate scanners on police vehicles in our fine town of Alameda.
Apparently, over the course of a month of using these intrusive devices, they found two stolen vehicles and about 50 "suspicious" vehicles ... whatever that means.
More than 75,000 citizens of Alameda have to relinquish their right to travel without being observed and recorded by their local government and city law enforcement because the police need to find two stolen cars and a case involving a 14-year-old boy who can't even drive? This is ridiculous -- this is an egregious invasion of our privacy, and our City Council should be ashamed of itself for even floating this Orwellian insanity.
I moved here because I thought of Alameda as (hopefully) being closer to Mayberry RFD than Stalag 13. Lately, I'm being proven wrong.
Alameda is becoming a small-town police state. Has anyone noticed the increasing number of surveillance cameras on Webster and Park? Doesn't it creep you out when you realize that these devices are watching you, that they are recording you?
The next time you are at these intersections, look up at the camera and realize it is looking back at you, recording you for review by "someone." According to the article in the Alameda Journal, this information is being shared with state and federal government, which means the NSA and other federal agencies, who have proved they are not to be trusted, have access to our information. Who is authorizing this? How is our information being used? Who is paying for this? Is a private company spearheading gross violations of our right to privacy for a profit? Is there a crime wave I didn't hear about?
The decision to put surveillance cameras up throughout Alameda and give the police the right to record images and data about every vehicle they pass during their work day should be voted on by our citizens, not dictated by the City Council. The reason this initiative wasn't put to a public vote is that it would never pass; no one votes to give away their privacy. Safety is floated as the reason for this ... I don't want to be this safe.
Do we want to live in a town where everyone is tracked by the police? Where devices increasingly record and share data with strangers about our every move at an expanding number of locations? Is this the kind of future you want for your children? Where their every action is watched and recorded? Would you like to have had your young life recorded in a database for future observation and scrutiny?
Wake up. Fight this now, or that is where we are going.
Chris Northcott is a resident of Alameda.