VOICES: We are already surveilling and being surveilled

Editor’s Note: This is in response to Tuesday’s contributed column.

At a recent Dayton City Commission meeting, I witnessed a detailed and sometimes heated discussion concerning the use of Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs) by the Dayton Police Department for resolving crimes. I heard many legitimate questions and concerns regarding the use, potential abuse and oversight of this technology. However, it occurred to me that some of the discussion was misdirected as some seem to believe that the Commission’s decision was about whether ALPRs would be used in the City of Dayton. Let’s not kid ourselves … they are already being used, by private companies to secure their own private property. And let’s not forget about the increasing use of residential security cameras and Ring doorbells. We’re already surveilling each other and being surveilled. The difference here is that the Dayton Police Department is being open and transparent about their intended use of ALPRs and are submitting to strict oversight by the City Commission to prevent misuse, abuse, or violations of civil and privacy rights.

ExploreVOICES: Dayton license plate reader vote doesn’t follow new surveillance guidelines

I am a resident, small business owner, and involved citizen in Old North Dayton. Both our neighborhood association and business association have requested use of ALPRs. Two prime examples of potential use would be to deter the large-scale theft of catalytic converters and dangerous drag racing/urban motorbiking that plague our neighborhood. We are actively working with city planners to develop a Neighborhood Safety Plan incorporating the use of ALPRs, along with other safety improvements, because we believe that a safer environment for our residents, business owners, and visitors can only strengthen our neighborhood. If ALPRs are used in our neighborhood, either as stationary units or in vehicles, we would take an active role in monitoring their use and effectiveness and would take action to request their removal if warranted.

We understand why some mistrust the police and must question their motives. But we are faced with a choice. We can shun our responsibility to the people who reside in, work in, or visit our city by pretending ALPRs will not be used within its boundaries, or we can assume the responsibility, fill part of an existing demand for crime reduction with this technology, and incorporate necessary protections that keep all of us safe. That is what I see our city staff and elected officials doing in this case. They are simply using an advanced technology to solve crimes, and they have built in protections for oversight ultimately controlling abuse. That is what they were elected and/or hired to do, and I see them doing it in the most transparent of ways. We want our city to remain viable and safe for everyone. In Old North Dayton, we look forward to the opportunity to serve as an example of how technology, properly managed, can generate good results.

Matthew Tepper is the owner of Evans Bakery and Neighborhood President for Old North Dayton.

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