Policing Goes Tech
Salinas mulls three new approaches, but dollars could be at issue.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
High tech crime fighting is on the agenda at Salinas City Hall, where several dozen city and county officials are invited to a hands-on technology demonstration Jan. 20.
Taking center stage is Olympic Behavior Labs of Port Angeles, Washington, which plans to show off information-sharing software that it says can predict which young people are likely to commit violent crimes, and alert agencies that can help them before they do.
The idea may gain greater currency in the wake of the Tucson shooting of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others, allegedly by a young man whose troubled behavior reportedly failed to trigger authorities to intervene.
“I like it,” says Brian Contreras, head of Salinas-based anti-gang program Second Chance. “Anyone can use it.” Contreras points to cities like Chicago, which is far ahead of Salinas in using data to combat gangs.
Still, the idea troubles civil libertarians like local ACLU Board member Michelle Welsh, who worries both about privacy issues and tagging some young people with a “bad kid” label.
Assistant City Attorney Georgina Mendoza originally said the demonstration would be closed to the media and only be open to tech experts from various public agencies like schools and probation. She didn’t respond to a request from the Weekly for a list of invitees, but the Weekly later learned the guest list includes more than 50 people, including Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue and Salinas Library Director Elizabeth Martinez.
By contrast, in San Jose, Mayoral Aide Jose Salcido was planning a similar OBL show-and-tell session Jan. 19, with city, county and community-based groups, and says the meeting is open to all comers, including members of the media.
Salinas officials have said they are simply considering ideas and no request for proposals has been issued. What’s more, the city cannot afford a high tech information system unless federal or state grants pay the tab.
But later this month, the group will also play host to two other contenders: Royal Oaks-based A-2 Technology Partners, run by Alex Adams, and San Francisco’s AJW Inc., run by community activist turned technology developer Andy Wong. AJW is currently working with an Antioch-based community organization to create a data-sharing system that would also be used in crime prevention.