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Police agencies make pitch for license plate readers

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Posted at 9:29 PM, Oct 28, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Law enforcement from around Middle Tennessee gathered in Nashville as city leaders prepare to debate whether to allow license plate readers on Nashville streets.

Held at the Midtown Hills police precinct, the gathering was, in large part, made up of police officers that already use license plate readers or LPRs, as Metro Council faces two bills dealing with the technology.

The officers presenting gave story after story of how the cameras — which register license plate characters and match them with databases of wanted cars — help solve Amber Alerts and catch violent criminals on the run.

"It's almost to the point where I would say if you're a law enforcement agency not using LPR, you are neglecting your duty," said Commander Scott Ryan with the Hendersonville Police Department. "This is an awesome tool that is extremely effective."

The officers say LPRs are not like red light cameras; they say they're not there to issue tickets.

Instead, officers say, they can stop further crimes before they start, oftentimes catching people in stolen cars.

"Let's catch them, with the stolen vehicle or the stolen tag that they have, and a lot of time we're finding, weapons in these vehicles as well," Ryan said.

At previous meetings, community members raised privacy concerns about the cameras.

Thursday, officers said there's no facial recognition capability with license plate readers. Additionally, officers said they think the cameras actually cut down on the implicit bias of police officers.

"We're not out targeting a community driving around trying to find people we think are wanted in stolen cars, we know for sure it's a stolen tag and we know it's a stolen car or wanted person," said Captian Tyler Chandler with Mt. Juliet Police.

Now it's up to Metro Council members to debate whether Metro Police should adopt License Plate Readers at their next meeting.