MT. JULIET, Tenn. (WKRN) — There are 50 license plate recognition (LPR) cameras stationed across Mt. Juliet. They’re placed at major intersections and interstate on and off-ramps.
The devices are small and discrete, but they play a big role in protecting the community.
Mt. Juliet Police Captain Tyler Chandler said this year they’ve intercepted roughly 94 stolen or wanted vehicles inside Mt. Juliet city limits.
“It reads every license plate that enters our community and compares that to a hotlist,” Cpt. Chandler said.
The “hot list” is made up of data from across the country. Police enter info on stolen cars, wanted, and missing people nationwide. If one of those cars drives through Mt. Juliet, the cameras pick up the plate and police are notified.
“Prior to our license plate recognition system, we were not even recovering 10 stolen vehicles a year,” Chandler said.
But most of these vehicles aren’t coming from in town.
“Ninety-nine percent of our arrestees are not from Mt. Juliet. It’s all outside in. They come into our community and commit crime. So, we wanted a system that would let us know when that criminal element entered our community,” Chandler said.
This year’s data shows that at least 43 of the 94 stolen or wanted cars came from Nashville, including a case from last weekend. The LPR system pinged a stolen vehicle that lead officers to an apartment complex where a teenage driver fled but was eventually captured with the help of a police K-9.
“We intercepted something more from happening. Because what is a 17-year-old doing in our community in a stolen car with a stolen gun, right? And then running from police when we intercept them,” Cpt. Chandler said.
Cpt. Chandler says intercepting stolen vehicles often leads to recovering more stolen property and illegal drugs. It’s a tool he’s encouraging other agencies to take advantage of.
“It’s a small investment for us. If you think about it, we pay yearly about $120,000 for 50 readers throughout the community. For what all it recovers within a year — 94 something stolen vehicles — wow! What an investment! If you think about the monetary value of each of those vehicles and we’re able to recover and return back to the victim the system pays for itself,” Cpt. Chandler said.
Metro Nashville leaders have proposed bringing LPRs to Music City, but have been met with pushback. Some people are worried about constant surveillance and possible misuse of the system. The debate over the cameras continues with Metro City Council.