ACLU-WA Comment on Proposal to Deploy CCTV Cameras, Real-Time Crime Center Software and Automated License Plate Reader Systems in Seattle Neighborhoods

News Release: 
Friday, May 31, 2024

SEATTLE – After vigorous opposition from the ACLU-WA, activists, and the public, the city has announced that it is dropping plans to deploy automated gunshot location systems. However, the city declared its intention to move forward with the installation of CCTV cameras and the expansion of Automated License Plate Readers (ALPR) throughout several Seattle neighborhoods, in conjunction with the deployment of real-time crime center software (RTCC), to surveil residents despite the objections of the ACLU-WA and members of the public.    

ACLU of Washington Technology Policy Program Director, Tee Sannon, Ph.D. had this reaction: 

“The City’s plan to deploy three harmful surveillance technologies – CCTV cameras, automated license plate readers, and real-time crime center software – is a vast and concerning expansion of government surveillance on a scale that residents have not previously seen in Seattle’s neighborhoods.  
We’ve consistently opposed automated gunshot location systems for reasons that go beyond their cost –  they are ineffective at reducing crime, violate people’s privacy, and disproportionately harm communities of color. In addition to the decision to not invest in this technology, the City should redirect its efforts from developing an invasive surveillance infrastructure toward funding public safety solutions that work. The technologies currently being advanced would contribute to an extensive surveillance system that chills free speech, deters free association, fuels racial disparity in policing, and provides a false sense of security at the cost of privacy and race equity.  
ALPRs and RTCC software would enable the City to amass an extensive amount of data that could be used to infer people’s activities, associations, and behaviors, and could cause significant harm to people who stand to be most negatively impacted by being tracked, including those seeking reproductive or gender-affirming healthcare and undocumented immigrants."