NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Metro Council members withdrew a bill that would let law enforcement use license plate readers on trailers to catch drag racers and stolen vehicles.
BL2020-494 would allow license plate readers to be used to enforce reckless driving laws, especially for the prosecution of persons engaged in illegal drag racing activity at speeds in excess of 70mph.
Sponsors of the bill said data collected would be safeguarded and only available to people involved in the investigation or prosecution of reckless driving and street racing.
It would also be a pilot project and after six months Metro Council would review how it went.
"We can take a look at the data and see have we seen a decrease in car theft? Reckless driving?" said sponsor Councilwoman Joy Styles. "And as these trailers are mobile, we get to see them around the city and see these changes across the city."
However, Councilman Dave Rosenberg is concerned that once this infrastructure in place, it will be hard to reverse.
In a series of tweets, he documented what worries him about license plate readers having a permanent place in Nashville.
In 2017, Metro Council passed - with just 2 no votes - a set of guardrails around gov't surveillance for the first time. The bill called for Council approval and public hearings on major expansions of surveillance. It also banned invasive fixed-position license plate readers. 1/— 𝘋𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘙𝘰𝘴𝘦𝘯𝘣𝘦𝘳𝘨 (@DaveRosenbergTN) January 4, 2021
"That's really dangerous," said Councilman Dave Rosenberg. "These fixed readers pull in a ton of data. Nefarious uses far outnumber the uses for good."
Councilwoman Styles withdrew the bill during Tuesday night's meeting. She said she plans to work on a substitute bill in the future that will feature feedback she received from residents.
The council is also considering his bill, one of two others about license plate readers. Rosenberg's bill would allow license plate readers on or inside police patrol vehicles. The other would allow license plate readers to be used to solve crimes beyond street racing.
"I'm trying to build a framework around mobile readers that are already legal so that the police can deploy them if they so choose, in a way that will get us data on how they're being used, the benefits, what the drawbacks are, and then decide then if this is a road we really want to go down. We need to be taking a thoughtful, methodical approach to really an important issue that can have far-reaching consequences," said Rosenberg.
Councilmember Courtney Johnston is backing the legislation that would allow police to use license plate readers in other types of investigations, including property crimes, violent crimes and Amber Alerts.
"The more I've learned about license plates readers and more I talk to municipalities [with them], I was told phenomenal stories about how they are solving crimes in days and weeks versus months," said Courtney Johnston.
Those bills were deferred to be discussed in future meetings.