Attempted Kidnappings Spark Police to Install License Plate Tracker Near Berkeley Middle School - NBC Bay Area
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Attempted Kidnappings Spark Police to Install License Plate Tracker Near Berkeley Middle School

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    Police in Berkeley have installed a controversial license plate tracker outside Willard Middle School in response to a recent rash of attempted kidnappings. Michelle Roberts reports. (Published Monday, Nov. 2, 2015)

    Police in Berkeley have placed a controversial license plate tracker outside Willard Middle School in response to a recent rash of attempted kidnappings.

    Since September, there have been five incidents in the neighborhood near the school since September, police said.

    "I'm concerned," said Ilan Savion, who walks his daughter to and from the school every day. "When you're talking about the safety and health of children, you can't go too far."

    The license plate reader is police operated and also a speed tracker, which reminds drivers to slow down in a school zone. The device collects data on each vehicle that passes and stores license plate numbers in the system.

    "The broader picture of trying to help find this person is worth it," Berkeley-resident Sabrina Kaufelt said.

    But not everyone agrees.

    Bargesh Arora, who works in the neighborhood, calls the tracker an unnecessary invasion of privacy.

    "Hackers could hack their system and they could leak their information and I don't want everyone to know where I go," Arora said.

    Many parents hope the technology will help police find the man accused of five attempted kidnappings this fall. All of the incidents occurred within a mile of Willard Middle School.

    In each case, a man tried to lure girls into his dark-colored van, police said. The man is described as being in his late 20s to 30s, with facial hair.

    The school district hopes the tracker will deter the suspect from coming back.

    "If the individual does show up around Berkeley, either that car reader or parents will identify him," said Mark Coplan with the Berkeley Unified School District.

    Police did not comment on how long the information will be stored in the system, only saying they are following department policy.

    The tracker is on loan from another agency. Police also did not specify how long the license plate tracker will be set up near the school.

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