Portola Valley home invasion sparks automated license plate reader debate

- A home invasion in Portola Valley has re-ignited the debate over automated license plate readers in the town.

The home invasion happened Oct. 13 around 10:30 p.m. on Valencia Court. According to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, three armed men approached a homeowner on his front porch. The robbers forced their way inside the home and held the man, his wife, and daughter in a bedroom while they ransacked it. The men drove off in a white sedan.

This is the second home invasion in Portola Valley since June, according to Town Manager Jeremy Dennis. He said the town council initially considered installing automated license plate readers, but the option was voted down last month.  The council has also recommended residents form neighborhood watch groups or install home security systems.

“There were a variety of reasons,” he said. “Number one was related to privacy concerns and how the data would be stored. Two, was related to whether or not it was an effective deterrent in crimes that we typically see in Portola Valley and for others it was a relationship to the quality of the character of the town.”

The most recent home invasion sparked an online petition that was turned in on Monday. Dennis said it had about 300 signatures and asked the council to reconsider their stance on automated license plate readers. He said the list has not yet been vetted to determine if it was signed by anyone who lives outside of Portola Valley.

Residents who spoke to KTVU had mixed reactions about the ALPR’s. Others were concerned with the lack of lighting at night. The town has never had street lights since it was founded in 1964, according to Dennis.

According to crime stats, there have been a number of car or residential burglaries over the past six years. The burglaries spiked in 2014 with 29 burglaries. To date, there have been 18 burglaries in Portola Valley since the start of the year.

Dennis said the town council has scheduled a meeting on Nov. 9 to discuss the petition and issue of automated license plate readers, among other items. He said given the breadth of items the community wants to discuss related to home security, staff needs time to prepare a report that will be useful to the council during the discussion.

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