San Francisco Begins Installing Automated License Plate Readers to Disrupt Organized Theft and other Criminal Activity

400 public safety cameras will now be installed at 100 intersections across San Francisco to combat organized retail theft, motor vehicle theft, and support other critical public safety needs
March 20, 2024

San Francisco, CA – Today, Mayor London N. Breed joined Police Chief Bill Scott, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, Sheriff Paul Miyamoto, Supervisors Myrna Melgar and Joel Engardio, and business leaders and community to announce the City's plan to install 400 Automated License Plate Readers (ALPR) at approximately 100 intersections across San Francisco.

These new public safety license plate reader cameras will be used by the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) to address critical public safety issues, including organized retail theft and motor vehicle theft.   

Mayor Breed and City leaders joined community members in the Inner Sunset to highlight the installation of new cameras at Ninth Avenue and Irving Street. The cameras are now being placed on a rolling basis at intersections and locations across the entire City. SFPD expects all 400 cameras to be in place and operable within the next three months.   

These new public safety tools are part of Mayor Breed’s strategy to use technology to improve public safety outcomes. She recently authored a ballot measure, Prop E, that allows for increased uses of technology by SFPD. These tools will help San Francisco build on the public safety progress it’s making that includes a 32% reduction in property crime and a 17% reduction in violent crime so far this year compared to last year.    

“We are making progress disrupting crimes and sending a message that San Francisco is a safe city for residents, businesses, and visitors,” said Mayor London Breed. “While we are relentless in staffing up our police force, we are also incorporating technology that supports the hard work our officers do every day to take care of our City and arrest those who think they can break the law in San Francisco. These license plate readers can play a critical role in disrupting retail theft, car break-ins, sideshows, and other criminal activity.”    

“I’m excited to launch a network of Automated License Plate Readers that will help the SFPD continue to protect our City,” said Chief Bill Scott. “Our officers are working hard and making arrests every day, and this technology will give them another tool to fight crime. I want to thank Mayor London Breed for making this program a priority and streamlining the process to ensure we can begin using these cameras immediately.” 

“I am thrilled to see these new automated license plate readers being installed and look forward to their full deployment,” said District Attorney Brooke Jenkins.  “These new tools will provide law enforcement critical, actionable, information that will be used to investigate and prosecute criminal cases.”  

Approval and Installation of ALPR Cameras  

In early November last year, Mayor Breed introduced legislation to fund the new ALPR cameras after the City received a $17.3 million grant from the State’s Organized Retail Theft Grant Program. Once this legislation was approved in January, to expedite camera installation, the Mayor directed staff and departments to eliminate red tape and any unnecessary delays.   

This included working directly with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), both of which have existing pole infrastructure that can be used to mount the cameras. With these approvals in place, SFPD will work with the approved camera vendor to install these cameras at 100 intersections on SFMTA and SFPUC infrastructure across the City.  

The City has contracted with Flock Safety to install and maintain the 400 cameras. The company provides ALPR technology to law enforcement agencies and neighborhood associations. Over 5,000 law enforcement agencies are utilizing Flock Safety across the U.S. to help solve a range of criminal activity, including vehicle theft, residential burglaries, kidnappings, homicides, retail theft, and other crimes. 

Dozens of agencies in the Bay Area are using Flock Safety ALPRs to fight crime, including San Mateo, Alameda County, Concord, Richmond, Palo Alto, and San Jose.  

How the City Will Utilize ALPR 

The authorized use of ALPR technology for the SFPD is limited to the following use cases and will only be used for: 

  • License plate recognition 
  • Assisting with criminal investigations initiated by local, state, and regional public safety departments by identifying vehicles associated with targets of criminal investigations 
  • To help locate victims, witnesses, suspects, missing children, adults, and/or elderly individuals, including in response to Amber Alerts and Silver Alerts and others associated with a law enforcement investigation 
  • Alerting police of wanted people or wanted vehicles 

What this technology will not be used for: 

  • No facial recognition 
  • No alerts with personal identifiable information 
  • Not a red light or speed camera – no issuing of citations 

Building Progress on Public Safety 

This new tool will help San Francisco continue to make progress on public safety. San Francisco has seen crime rates decline, with 2023 being the lowest year for crime rates in the last decade. 

So far this year, crime continues to drop further compared to last year with: 

  • 32% reduction in property crime
    • Burglary down 17%
    • Larceny theft (car break-ins and retail theft) down 40%
    • Motor vehicle theft down 7%
  • 16% reduction in violent crime, including:
    • Robberies down 19%
    • Assaults down 10% 

Read more about Mayor Breed’s work around public safety here