FREMONT -- The city will install dozens of cameras and license-plate readers throughout Fremont, aiming to deter and to identify criminals coming into the city from other areas.
City Council members on Tuesday allocated $300,000 for the program sought by the Police Department, shrugging off speakers who warned of a creeping loss of privacy.
"This whole notion that cameras are bad and privacy is good is overly simplistic," said Councilwoman Anu Natarajan. "The prevalence of iPhones and Facebook and constantly being in touch with each other makes camera privacy a nonissue."
Most of Fremont's burglaries are committed by people living in other communities, said police Chief Richard Lucero. Cameras will be placed at 12 intersections near city limits to capture information on vehicles entering and exiting town, he said.
In a six-month period from late 2012 to early 2013, 46 people were convicted of burglaries, police said, and 39 of them -- about 85 percent -- lived outside Fremont.
The strategy of monitoring motorists near city limits has been adopted by other Bay Area communities, such as Piedmont, which installed license-plate readers and cameras last fall.
Since then, Piedmont police have recovered more stolen vehicles and made more burglary arrests than usual, but it's too soon to credit the surveillance systems for those developments, Piedmont police Capt. Scott Wyatt said.
"I wouldn't call it a trend for police agencies," Wyatt said. "Every community has to weigh the technology against its needs and what type of crimes it has."
Piedmont, 1.4 square miles in area, added the surveillance systems after a series of home-invasion robberies alarmed the small town's residents.
"License-plate readers are very specific in what they do -- our purpose was to find vehicles that are wanted," Wyatt said. Fremont, encompassing 92 square miles, has had concerns similar to Piedmont's, despite being a much larger city.
A rise in home burglaries frightened residents in recent years, and police have used homeowners' security cameras to catch suspects, lowering its rate for home and commercial burglaries last year by 27 percent. Some home security videos posted online show people knocking on doors, then breaking in when no one responds.
But concerns about abuse of video and license-plate data remain.
Three speakers at Fremont's meeting said they oppose the camera systems because of personal privacy concerns.
"The council must adopt enforceable safeguards to prevent and address misuse," ACLU spokesman Mike Chase said, calling for council members to consider "the potential costs to taxpayers and community members' rights."
Chase compared Fremont's diverse immigrant communities to that of New York City's, where license-plate readers were used to monitor Muslims not suspected of any crime. "In diverse communities like Fremont, the risks of discriminatory targeting are acute," he said.
Two Fremont residents disagreed, saying that people should not expect privacy while driving in public places.
Lois Crabtree, a longtime Fremont resident, said she "was delighted" to learn of the camera proposal because burglars have broken into her home six times.
"Invasion of privacy is when a burglar breaks into your home and empties all your drawers and closets and dumps your possessions on the floor, looking at items they will take from you," she said.
Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-293-2480. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.
1. Westbound Thornton Avenue onto northbound I-880
2. Northbound and southbound Fremont Boulevard onto northbound I-880
3. Southbound Fremont Boulevard onto southbound I-880
4. Westbound Mowry Avenue onto northbound I-880
5. Westbound Decoto Road onto northbound I-880
6. Southbound Ardenwood Boulevard onto westbound Highway 84
7. Westbound Stevenson Boulevard onto northbound I-880
8. Northbound Alvarado Boulevard at Union City border
9. Southbound Mission Boulevard onto northbound I-880
10. Northbound Mission Boulevard onto northbound I-680
11. Eastbound Auto Mall Parkway on northbound and southbound I-880
12. Northbound Mission Boulevard at Mowry Avenue