NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — After years of debate and a six month pilot program, Metro Council is expected to decide the future of license plate readers on Tuesday, Aug. 15, the last meeting of this term.
“Over the course of this six months, there’s been an extraordinary amount of data that is publicly accessible,” said Public Health and Safety Committee Chair Jeff Syracuse. “We really need to be thoughtful about how we proceed.”
License plate readers are fixed and mobile cameras used to locate vehicles wanted by law enforcement.
During their Tuesday, Aug. 1 meeting, Syracuse’s committee did not take any action on whether to continue the use of LPR cameras in Davidson County. He said the meeting was an opportunity for key community groups to make their case for and against the cameras.
“So last night’s special called meeting was specific just to take the time to have those presentations. We did not get into a robust debate, but now we have time for all councilmembers to review the presentations, the video, and be prepared in the separate committee meetings to debate this before we go into the floor for a full council debate,” he explained.
Metro police and the Davidson County District Attorney’s Office said the pilot program proved this technology can make Nashville safer.
“People having their bodies maimed and shot with firearms and these cases going unsolved is an injustice. We need every tool in our toolbox to solve these crimes and license plate readers are an important part of that,” said Assistant District Attorney Jenny Charles.
According to MNPD data presented at Tuesday’s meeting, during the pilot period, the cameras led to 112 arrests, 87 recovered vehicles, and 71 million license plates scanned.
However, while Metro police are celebrating these figures, others are worried about them.
“Just hearing the sheer volume of data, we have to be really intentional and prudent on what’s happening with this information,” said a representative from the Tennessee Immigration and Refugee Rights Coalition.
Other groups worried the cameras will lead to marginalized communities being disproportionately arrested by law enforcement.
Yet Syracuse said he was encouraged by MNPD saying if the program was continued they would ensure the cameras were equitably distributed around the county, but he does encourage Nashville residents to look at the publicly available data, do their own research, and share their views with their council member.