|Alameda’s Park Street drawbridge.|
ALAMEDA CITY COUNCIL
Alameda Police Chief Paul Rolleri says the city is in the midst of a dramatic 30-year drop in crime. However, on Tuesday night he will ask the Alameda City Council to approve the purchase of 13 Automated License-Place Readers (ALPR) to be mounted along the entrance and exit points of the island. The $500,000 purchase would be funded by the city’s general fund.
In a staff report released last week, Rolleri acknowledged crime is down over the long-term, but he also highlighted a slight uptick, due to vehicle break-ins. Notably, Rolleri downplayed the significance of the slight rise in crime, attributing much of the concern heard recently in the community to overcharged comments on social media.
Alameda used to be a racist town, as was San Leandro. But over the years each cities power structure aged, lost its edge in the abhorrent game of racism, and along with federal and state housing discrimination laws, each town became ultra-diverse East Bay hamlets. Nevertheless, Rolleri’s request is clearly a high-tech version of the Old Alameda mantra to “raise the bridges,” a reference that historically means keep African Americans from Oakland out of Alameda.
This type of request from law enforcement was seen two years ago in Fremont when crime fears, not substantiated by data, were used as a pretext for that council to approve 10 surveillance cameras along freeway entrance and exit ramps. Piedmont, which geographically sits entirely within Oakland’s borders, also wrapped itself recently in surveillance cameras.
But, whereas the suggestion by Fremont Police was quite clear that these purported crimes were being committed not by Fremonters, but outsiders, the connection isn’t being explicitly being made in Alameda, just winked at.
Meanwhile, there’s no demonstrable crime increase in Alameda. There is no evidence that the scourge of this nonexistent rise in crime is being committed by people from outside of Alameda. In addition, there’s little evidence the four license-plate readers already in Alameda PD’s possession even do much to limit or stop crime. Furthermore, privacy concerns over data collection and storage are real, but generally placated by police asking the public to trust them.
Two years ago, Rolleri reported to the City Council that an officer used the system to make improper data requests. They were later deemed mistakes by officers news to the system.
For Alameda city officials, many of whom are progressives, it comes down to this: Progressives do not support expanding the surveillance state. Moderates from the Tri Valley like do. That’s why Rep. Eric Swalwell voted last month to extend to the Trump administration the excessive power to spy on Americans without a warrant, while at the same time, appearing daily on cable news to tell the country, through the Russian collusion case, that the president is a traitor.
Whether its raising the bridges in Alameda through digital means or building a “big, beautiful wall” on the southern border, both signify attempts to sow division and reward opinions borne out of irrational and historical fears of people who don’t exactly look them. This is an issue were local officials can apply the angry rhetoric lodged at Trump and apply it to their own local jurisdictions.