Oregon lawmakers to tackle privacy legislation

, Posted: Thu, January 9 2014 at 6:31 PM, Updated: Fri, January 10 2014 at 11:01 AM

While concerns over privacy play out on the national stage, Oregon lawmakers will be grappling with similar issues at the start of the next legislative session starting in February.

Lawmakers are expected to look at three bills. All of them are connected to preserving people's privacy.

Catalina Castillo is one of many Oregonians who value their privacy.

"I don't like my privacy getting invaded by big brother so to speak," she said.

Those kinds of concerns are spurring legislators in Salem to look at privacy legislation next month. One that's received a lot of attention would limit how long police can store images of license plates.

"We have two police vehicles mounted with this technology and what it does is it has four cameras on the vehicle at different angles to try and get a full 360-degree coverage," said Lt. Mike Budreau with the Medford Police Department.

Medford police keep those images for 90-days and the department isn't the only one using the technology. Budreau said the Jackson County Sheriff's Office also has two cars equipped with a cameras. In addition, a number of police agencies in Oregon utilize it as well.

"It will check that plate to see if that vehicle is wanted, stolen, missing, etcetera," said Budreau.

Up north, according to an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) representative, Portland police can take 128,000 images a day and store them for four years.

"Goodlord," exclaimed Central Point resident Kevin Holmbeck when he heard the figure.

"If you don't do anything, why take your picture?" he asked.

However, Budreau said pictures help them catch criminals.

"Oftentimes we as police rush into a crime scene [...] as a suspect is leaving and we often utilize that technology to try and capture the license plates leaving the crime scene," said Budreau.

According to Budreau the technology has recently helped them catch an alleged bank robber by taking a snapshot of the suspect's car as it passed police cars headed to the crime scene.

"I could see how it could be good. It's always nice to know that they're trying to keep the streets safer [...] but on the other hand it's also like, it is our privacy," Holmbeck said.

Budreau said MPD understands people's privacy concerns and they want to be sensitive to it.

"This technology doesn't tell us the registered owner of every car it sees. All it does is capture the plate, runs the numbers. [Is it] wanted? Yes, no, done," he said.

The license plate photo legislation is backed by the ACLU and if passed, would only allow police to keep photos for 10 days unless there's further investigation.

"I think 10 days is a little tight," said Budreau.

He added that sometimes crimes are not reported right away and having shots of license plate numbers for a longer period of time might help solve cases.

Meantime, while some people say they don't mind the photos, Castillo says the legislation doesn't go far enough.

"I don't think that it's something that should be done at all."


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