CHULA VISTA, Calif. — In a unanimous vote, Chula Vista city leaders are joining cities like El Cajon in adding automated license plate reading cameras at intersections across the city.
The vote Tuesday night authorized the purchase of more than 150 cameras to be installed throughout San Diego County’s second largest city. While some say it would keep the community safer, others are pushing back while touting privacy concerns.
“I do not want my community to be victimized,” shared Chula Vista Chief of Police Roxana Kennedy.
Emotional and familiar testimonies were shared before council chambers Tuesday, one surrounding a well-known name in Chula Vista — Maya Millete.
“I hope and pray that no other family suffers this long in locating their loved ones like we have,” shared Maricris Drouaillet who happens to be Millete’s sister. “It’s been two years and nine months since we’ve last seen her. As of today, we have not been successful in locating her.”
The story of her disappearance was brought to council in hopes of adding new watchful digital eyes to help solve crime throughout the South Bay.
“We like to say here in Chula Vista that we use our technology for good,” shared Chief Kennedy.
The move comes after a unanimous vote along the dais after hours of contentious discussion, giving the green light in using $3 million worth of state funds to install over 150 license plate readers across the city. It’s all to catch wanted criminals and to put an end to car theft, which has jumped nearly 30% in the last year.
“We want to make sure that if you’re looking into stealing a car, that Chula Vista is going to be the last place you’re going to want to do it,” said Mayor John McCann.
The decision doesn’t come without controversy, some argue the extra surveillance crosses a line.
“It’s disappointing because the decision was made without any type of community input with the exception of what we were able to say tonight and absolutely no vetting, and no recognition to the processes that are supposed to be in place,” shared resident Pedro Rios, who serves as the director of the American Friends Service Committee.
Police say the technology alerts officers in real time of wanted vehicles designed to only identify license plate numbers, not faces. It’s something Maya’s sister says could have saved a mother of three.
“It is my sincerest belief that if Chula Vista and the surrounding cities had license plate readers activated at the time of disappearance, the investigators would have a greater chance in locating her,” shared Drouaillet.
According to Chula Vista PD, the data captured by the new technology won’t capture a person’s face and is only used to regulate traffic. The department also says the data won’t be sold or shared with outside agencies, is retained for 30 days, then deleted.