Civil Liberties

Wealthy CA Town Considers a Perimeter of License Plate Readers

Moats are too old-fashioned


PIEDMONT, CALIFORNIA—In the early 20th century, a group of wealthy Oaklanders separated from their city to found Piedmont. Large, stately homes and handful of businesses define the city. Today, the town-on-the-hill has only 11,000 residents.

Piedmont is entirely surrounded by Oakland, and is one of the few towns in America to be entirely contained within another city. Despite the recent efforts of a small group to "Liberate Piedmont" and return it to Oakland, it's likely going to stay this way.

But if the local police chief has her way, Piedmont will become even more unique. The chief is pushing for Piedmont to become one of the few cities in America to install automatic license plate readers (LPR) at its city borders—in this case, they would be mounted above each of the 30 roads leading into town. If successful, Piedmont would be the second wealthy Bay Area community with such a system. (Tiburon, in nearby Marin County, approved LPRs more than three years ago for the only two roads leading in and out of town. Sugar Land, Texas, approved similar measures for its municipal borders in November 2012.)