Nov 222017
 

The Center for Human Rights and Privacy recently discovered that the Alameda County Sheriff installed a license plate reader at the entrance to Highland Hospital’s emergency room. The information was included in a list of 29 agencies that submit license plate reader to the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC), a local joint fusion center.

However, when the East Bay Times asked about its license plate readers in February 2017, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office reported that it had about six license plate readers, mounted to patrol cars and didn’t mention the license plate reader at Highland Hospital.

The license plate reader has two cameras to capture images of vehicles and license plates as vehicles enter the emergency room drop-off area of Highland Hospital from E. 31st Street.

According to information from NCRIC, the license plate reader captured data from 293,148 vehicles from December 2016 to October 2017. Earlier data was not available. Once the information is submitted to NCRIC, it is made available to dozens of agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), which can use it to identify undocumented immigrants for deportation.

The license plate reader was installed as part of a project to replace the Acute Tower at Highland Hospital in 2014. According to a change order for the project, installation of the license plate reader cost $74,622. The license plate reader is from 3M and was previously known as the SpikeHD P382.

In addition to the photos below, the license plate reader can be seen in Google’s Street View.

Alameda Co. Sheriff license plate reader at Highland Hospital

 

Closeup of Alameda Co Sheriff license plate reader at Highland Hospital in Oakland

Coverage in the East Bay Express: Highland Hospital Surveillance Stirs Concerns

Apr 052016
 

The Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NRCIC), the fusion center for Northern California, has three trailers with automated license plate readers that it loans out to other agencies.

The trailers are intended to look like speed limit warning signs that prominently display the speed of passing cars but are equipped with cameras that capture images of vehicles passing in both directions.

Trailer used by NCRIC to capture license plate and vehicle images

Trailer used by NCRIC to capture license plate and vehicle images

The NCRIC is managed by the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, which handles requests for the trailers. The trailer picture was deployed in front of Willard Middle School in Berkeley in October 2015 after a series of attempted kidnappings.

The trailers and their deployment by a covert equipment crew is described as follows in an email exchange with NCRIC (emphasis added):

NCRIC has [redacted] portable ALPR trailers that look like speed signs and function that way as well, they are solar powered but if they can be placed near an alternate power source they will of course last longer than the average 5 at period, bottom line I they are available but very often loaned out to other agencies for similar reasons that you require one. Once approval is obtained on your end please let Sean O’Donnell or I know and we can enter your request on the NCRIC website for this equipment on your behalf etc, just let us know we’re here to help: Once approval is obtained as you mentioned, we can easily facilitate the placement of ALPR trailers with our NCRIC covert equipment crew, no problem.

As of January 2016, NCRIC had three trailers, which are referred to as PIPS LPR Speed Trailer #1, PIPS LPR Speed Trailer #2, and PIPS LPR Speed Trailer #3.

Requests for the ALPR trailers are submitted via NCRIC’s web site and then sent via email to NCRIC with the subject “NCHIDTA Equipment Request.” NCHIDTA is the abbreviation for Northern California High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, which is also managed by the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.

Agency Date of Request Requested For
San Francisco Police June 16, 2015 Five days beginning on June 25, 2015
National Park Service June 17, 2015 One month beginning on June 24, 2015
Santa Clara Sheriff’s Office August 5, 2015 One week beginning on August 5, 2015
San Mateo Police Department September 1, 2015 As soon as possible for unknown period of time
Burlingame Police Department November 3, 2015 Two days beginning on December 16, 2015
San Bruno Police Department November 4, 2015 One week beginning on November 5, 2015
San Mateo County Sheriff November 5, 2015 One week beginning on November 10, 2015
Burlingame Police Department November 6, 2015 Five days beginning on November 23, 2015
San Mateo County Sheriff December 16, 2015 One to two weeks beginning on December 21, 2015

However, the information released by NCRIC did not include any information as to whether an ALPR trailer was actually deployed. For example, the National Park Service requested an ALPR trailer, but it was never deployed.

Technical Details

The trailer can operate on battery power for up to 5 days and takes 24 hours to full recharge. There are four cameras in two housings that can capture images of vehicles and license plates coming towards the trailer and going away from the trailer. The cameras are manufactured by PIPS Technologies, which is now owned by 3M. The cameras are surrounded by infrared LEDs that operate in the infrared spectrum at 950nm 3M_P634-Camera. A Garmin GPS is used to provide the geographic location data (latitude and longitude) that is stored with each of the images captured by the cameras. The data is uploaded via a cellular data connection to the NCRIC’s ALPR data warehouse, which had 46.5 million records as of April 2015 (see Who’s watching who?: License plate readers used throughout San Mateo County).

Source documents:

Emails between NCRIC and law enforcement agencies

License Plate Reader Data Sharing at Northern California Regional Intelligence Center

 

Shortly after Palantir’s successful bid, the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC) began gathering and sharing license plate reader data from law enforcement agencies throughout Northern California.

Fifteen agencies have a signed Memorandum of Understanding with NCRIC to share license plate reader data:

Dec 062015
 

As part of an effort to identify a suspect in kidnapping attempts near Willard Middle School in Berkeley, the Berkeley Police Department borrowed an automated license plate reader (ALPR) from the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC), the local fusion center.

The ALPR is part of a trailer that at first appears to be just a sign to get drivers to slow down. The ALPR consists of cameras facing cars driving towards and away from the trailer. The trailer uses Willard Middle School to power the license plate cameras and signs, using an electrical power cord that extends from the trailer to the school.

Berkeley Police Detective Scott Castle contacted the fusion center on October 20, two days after two reported kidnapping attempts near the middle school to request the mobile ALPR. See Berkeleyside for more coverage.

The license plate reader consists of four cameras, two in each direction. One camera captures an image of the license plate that is suitable for a computer to process into a format that the computer can recognize. The other camera captures an image of the vehicle and possibly the occupant(s) of the vehicle. The license plate readers appear to be 3M Mobile ALPR cameras. The trailer submits the captured images, which include a date/time stamp and geographic location information from a Garmin GPS, to a data warehouse maintained by the NCRIC fusion center. The NCRIC fusion center collects similar data from more than a dozen local law enforcement agencies and makes it available to dozens of local law enforcement agencies, plus the IRS, the US Air Force, UC San Francisco, DMV, FBI, DHS, Stanford University, and others.

The NCRIC retains all of the data collected, including the vehicle images, for at least a year, but may retain it for longer if the data is part of an investigation.

Trailer used by NCRIC to capture license plate and vehicle images

Trailer used by NCRIC to capture license plate and vehicle images

3M Mobile ALPR camera in NCRIC mobile trailer

3M Mobile ALPR camera used to capture images of license plates and vehicles.

NCRIC mobile ALPR trailer cables

Cables attached to the NCRIC mobile ALPR trailer