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Parking lot cameras in Santa Barbara may have new uses and help police catch criminal suspects

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The cameras installed in several Santa Barbara parking lots at the entrance and exit locations may be used soon to help catch wanted suspects.

Currently, the system is in place to read license plates and use that data to calculate how long a vehicle has been parked.  If it's within the free period, the exit gate will automatically go up.

If the vehicle has been there longer than the free period the driver will have to pay to get out. The system also allows for the gate to go up if a driver has paid for a special pass offered by the city.

Police have been able to use the images for investigations under the current policy but only if a warrant has been issued by a judge, and that takes time.

Under the new proposal, if police have a case number, investigators can automatically obtain and view video of the license plates. In some cases, they will see a vehicle believed to be linked to a crime and place that vehicle in the area as a piece of the investigation or evidence.

In a downtown parking lot, Santa Barbara resident Debra McRoberts, "I think that is a great idea we have the technology, lets use it."

Santa Barbara resident Nick Shalhoob supported the plan with caution. "I believe that if there is anything that can help due process and catch the bad guys  yeah go for it but there is that small chance of invasion of privacy."

One questions raised is,  what if they investigation leads to an uninvolved car and something suspicious is found?

Santa Barbara resident Nick Shalhoob said, "are they going to open up a new separate  case?   Is that going to happen?"

Montecito resident Will Davies  said, "I am in favor of cleaning up crime where ever possible....but I feel there's reasonable obstacles for police to surmount.  There's an obstacle put in there for a reasons. I can't see why a reasonable request for that wouldn't help."

Looking at what would help her in a police situation, Santa Barbara resident Nicolette Larez said she would hope more eyewitnesses would be around.    "I don't necessarily think the camera  is going to be  much of a difference.  It wouldn't necessarily make me feel safer because it's not like there's police  officers are there  to help me in the moment.   It just depends on the situation"

Jesse Aizenstat was hoping there would be an oversight of how the information is used saying, "the cameras, retroactively  I'm for it   as long as they are some sort of independent review process."

The Santa Barbara City Council also heard a similar message during the public comment period and a request for the issue to go to the Fire and Police Commission.

Councilmember Meagan Harmon said she was in favor but not without some "discomfort." She was concerned about privacy issues.

The city says the cameras only see the license plates and not the driver's face. The pictures are in a public place.

Aizenstat also favored more efforts to reduce crime to avoid this need, especially in the area of mental health care outreach on the streets which he believes is linked to the crimes.

The report says the change will have no financial impact on the city.

Article Topic Follows: Crime & Courts
Santa Barbara

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT News Channel 3-12. To learn more about John, click here.


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