BY FREDA MIKLIN
At its July 17 study session, the Greenwood Village City Council responded enthusiastically to Police Chief Dustin Varney’s proposal to add 14 more automatic license plate readers (ALPRs) around the city, to supplement the two that have been in use in the vicinity of Arapahoe Road and the I-25 corridor since 2020.
Chief Varney explained that those who commit crimes in the business districts and/or neighborhoods of GV use the city’s main roads, so having ALPRs in key locations will capture important data. Accordingly, he proposed placing them on GV thoroughfares, including Belleview Avenue, Orchard Road, University Boulevard, Holly Street, Quebec Street, and Yosemite Street.
Appearing with the chief were Deputy Police Chief Dave Oliver, Traffic Operations Commander Scott Jones, and Communications & Records Manager Mike Stewart.
Chief Varney pointed out that motor vehicle theft has been the fastest rising crime since 2019 and Colorado led the nation in motor vehicle thefts from 2020 to 2021. ALPRs have proven to be an effective tool in combatting both crime and traffic issues.
The two ALPRs that have been in use in GV since 2020 capture 6.5 million license plates annually and generate approximately 14,000 alerts. Those alerts, along with the implementation of new police department tactics and policies, are believed to have been key to motor vehicle thefts in GV coming down from 212 in 2021 to 165 in 2022. The system has also “helped solve crimes involving burglary, theft, weapons violations, robbery, assault,” and other offenses, including drugs.
GVPD’s proposal is to lease the ALPRs for five years, at an estimated annual rental cost of $40,600. Leasing the equipment instead of buying it avoids a significant up-front cost. More importantly, it will allow GV to take advantage of technological updates and improvements.
The Chief expects that the new and currently-in-place ALPRs will generate 91,000 alerts annually, of which approximately 27,000 will be actionable. To handle the additional workload that will be generated by the data collected, he told the council he will need three additional staff members; one 911 dispatcher, one digital media technician, and one commissioned police detective, for a total estimated cost of $310,152 per year, including benefits.
In response to a question from Council Member Anne Ingebretsen, Chief Varney confirmed that ALPRs could be used to identify vehicles involved in repeated incidents of street racing, which would increase the likelihood of the perpetrators being caught and cited if they engage in the activity again.
Addressing the question of privacy, GV Communications Officer Megan Copenhaver told The Villager that the City’s stated policy is, “The new devices will only be placed in areas… with high rates of crime and/or areas that have been identified as zones of travel for vehicles associated with crime. Access and use of scanned data is for law enforcement purposes only, and officers utilizing the data need a justifiable reason to view and use the information to further an investigation.” Further, she explained, “All license plate recognition data and images are retained for 21 days. Data that contains information pertinent to a specific law enforcement investigation will be retained for the life of the related case file or otherwise deemed by a court of law. Following the 21-day period, if the data does not contain information that has been identified as pertinent to a law enforcement investigation or an ongoing case, it is discarded. These policies are consistent with the state’s recommended municipal records retention schedule and meet standards as outlined by the International Association of Chiefs of Police and Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police, the departments accrediting agency.”
Chief Varney assured the council that, if the chosen sites do not generate the expected volume of alerts, ALPRs could be relocated at a nominal cost.
In an informal voice vote, the council unanimously decided to proceed with the implementation of the program immediately, since the city is “very much ahead of budgeted revenues” for 2023, according to its city manager, John Jackson. Chief Varney told the council it would likely take about six months to get the equipment and staffing in place.