The City of Miami Springs Police will be installing more surveillance cameras and license plate readers. The City of Miami Springs City Council unanimously approved the expansion of the program.
Here’s the current state of surveillance in the City of Miami Springs:
- 5 Red Light Cameras (all along NW 36th Street)
- 1 Automated License Plate Reader at Curtiss Parkway
- 1 Automated License Plate Reader approved, but not installed on East Drive
The City of Miami Springs City Council unanimously approved the addition of 3 Automated License Plate Readers. This will bring the total number of dedicated License Plate Readers to 5 across the City. This will also effectively allow the City of Miami Springs Police Department to cover nearly all of the main entrances to Miami Springs. In other words, the City has the technology to track when and where residents are entering the city. This definitely raises red flags with privacy advocates who would be concerned with having a database that logs when and where residents enter the city.
Locations of Automated License Plate Readers
The existing Miami Springs Automated License Plate Reader is currently posted at:
- Incoming bridge from Hialeah on Curtiss Parkway and Canal Street
The previously approved, but not yet installed Automated License Plate Reader is will be added to the following location:
- Incoming bridge from Hialeah on East Drive and South Royal Poinciana Boulevard (near the Middle School)
The new locations approved at Monday’s meeting include:
- Northbound Ludlam near Melrose
- Northbound Curtiss Parkway at Fairway Drive
- Eastbound on N Royal Poinciana Boulevard just east of the train tracks
NOTE: The City of Miami Springs wants to add another ALPR located on the entrance from South Royal Poinciana Boulevard, but since that area will go through major construction, it was decided to hold off adding an ALPR to that area until after the South Royal Poinciana Median Project is completed.
Benefits of Automated License Plate Readers
The automated license plate readers do not generate revenues. However, they do help with catching criminals. Here’s how:
- Police alerted when stolen vehicles pass through one of the cameras
- Police alerted when a vehicle registered to a wanted person passes through one of the cameras
As you can see below, we’ve reported on some of the prior successes the City of Miami Springs Police Department has had in apprehending subjects associated with a stolen vehicle and/or a wanted subject.
Just yesterday, the City of Miami Springs arrested a designated career criminal who drove into Miami Springs in an alleged stolen car. The stolen car triggered a hit on the ALPR located on Curtiss Parkway and Canal Street. Miami Springs Police were able to track the felon near Oriole Avenue and Lenape Drive. (Read the full story.)
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has brought up concerns over the mass tracking of innocent people. Let’s be honest, we are trusting that the City of Miami Springs only use the information from the ALPRs for the exact benefits listed above. But, if not scrutinized, it could easily be used for nefarious purposes:
- Tracking the date, time, and place where ordinary citizens ingress into the city
- Using algorithms with this data to predict an ordinary citizen’s whereabouts
- Using the data to establish someone’s whereabouts in a divorce proceeding
- Using the data to track an existing lover / former lover
- Using the data to track a rival
- Using the data to track employees
- Using the data to track a personal enemy
- Using the data to harass an innocent person
- Using the data to stalk someone
- Using the data to track a political opponent
- Using the data to track when someone’s not home
To prevent abuses, the ACLU has provided the following guidelines for License Plate Readers:
- License plate readers may be used by law enforcement agencies only to investigate hits and in other circumstances in which law enforcement agents reasonably believe that the plate data are relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation.
- The government must not store data about innocent people for any lengthy period. Unless plate data has been flagged, retention periods should be measured in days or weeks, not months and certainly not years.
- People should be able to find out if plate data of vehicles registered to them are contained in a law enforcement agency’s database.
- Law enforcement agencies should not share license plate reader data with third parties that do not follow proper retention and access principles. They should also be transparent regarding with whom they share license plate reader data.
- Any entity that uses license plate readers should be required to report its usage publicly on at least an annual basis.
Safeguards in Place
Fortunately, the City of Miami Springs is mandated by the State of Florida to have rigorous safeguards in place to prevent the kind of abuses described above. Miami Springs Police Chief, Armando Guzman, was very gracious to share his time with me to discuss the many safeguards the City has in place:
- The data collected from the ALPR system can only be used for Criminal Investigations
- The data cannot be used for civil cases or divorce cases
- The data collected is only stored for 90 days (every day, data from 91 days ago is automatically wiped out)
- The City of Miami Springs Police and individual officers can be held criminally liable if they violate Florida Law and abuse this system
- The City of Miami Springs Police must comply with an audit by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) each year
- The City must also comply with standards set by the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
In addition, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has published guidelines for the use of Automated License Plate Readers.
The guidelines include:
- ALPRs and data generated by ALPRs shall be used only for a criminal justice purpose
- ALPR Scanning Limited to Vehicles Exposed to Public View
- Supervisory Approval of ALPR Deployment and Use
- Only trained members of a criminal justice agency who are authorized by the chief executive may operate an ALPR
- Criminal Justice Agency personnel may access or use ALPR stored data only if the person has been designated as an authorized user by the chief executive of the agency or designee, and has been trained by the agency on the proper use of ALPR data.
- ALPR data may be disclosed by or to a criminal justice agency in the performance of the criminal justice agency’s official duties. Any such information relating to a license plate registered to an individual may be disclosed to the individual, unless such information constitutes active criminal intelligence information or active criminal investigative information
- ALPR data must be safeguarded in accordance with Florida Statute 316.0777
Florida State Statute: 316.0777
316.0777 Automated license plate recognition systems; public records exemption.—
(1) As used in this section, the term:
(2) The following information held by an agency is confidential and exempt from s. 119.07(1) and s. 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution:
(3) Such information may be disclosed as follows:
Red Light Camera Revenues in Miami Springs
The City Manager shared the amount of net revenues the City of Miami Springs collected from fines associated with the Red Light Camera program since Fiscal Year 2012:
- FY2012: $314,116
- FY2013: $377,128
- FY2014: $254,830
- FY2015: $266,383
- FY2016: $246,159
- FY2017: $414,605
- FY2018: $666,405
- FY2019: $624,828
- FY2020: $418,216
- 9 YEAR TOTAL: $3,582,670
Again, this revenue is generated from the red light cameras and not the ALPRs.
Now, you’ll notice there was a drop last year in the amount of red light camera revenue generated. We all know that 2020 was the year of the COVID lockdown. It was the year where “non-essential” businesses were closed down. It was the year where kids did not go to school in person. As a result, traffic dropped off dramatically and it’s no surprise that the amount of revenue dropped off last year.
I’ll be honest. I don’t like the idea of the behavior of innocent, law abiding citizens somehow being catalogued by any government entity. However, I am confident the City of Miami Springs Police Department is following strict guidelines put in place to protect your privacy. I’m also confident of the laws in place by the State of Florida to prevent abuses by agencies.
In Miami Springs, the automated license plate readers have helped to catch criminals and stop crime. That’s a huge win without negatives.
Furthermore, the red light cameras have literally brought in millions of dollars to the City of Miami Springs. They have helped the department catch offenders and determine who was at fault at many of the accidents caught on camera.
Overall, the surveillance camera program has been a huge success and should be supported. But it’s support must also be accompanied by strong guidelines and vigilance to ensure the system is never used to abuse the rights of innocent, law abiding citizens.