NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Metro Nashville’s license plate reader (LPR) six-month pilot program has ended, but there could be a push to make the LPRs permanent in the coming weeks.
LPRs automatically detect license plate numbers connected to a crime and entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC).
Metro launched a six-month pilot program this past January to test out LPRs. The department placed 24 fixed readers throughout the city, in addition to several mobile LPRs attached to patrol cars and trailers.
From May 18 to July 6, LPRs scanned nearly 5 million tags and generated close to 4,000 positive hits, according to the data.
Deputy Chief Greg Blair told News 2 LPRs have helped the department track down violent criminals and locate missing people in record time.
“An officer can run a tag in a car; this machine does it 10 times faster and more efficiently. An officer costs so much money; an officer takes vacation, an officer has days off, family is sick,” Blair said. “The machine is always there.”
During the most recent 10-day period, officers were able to recover more than 20 stolen vehicles and make more than 40 arrests, according to the data.
“There’s no other tool like it,” Blair said.
While some critics are concerned the LPRs target non-white, low-income minorities, Blair told News 2 the only people targeted are criminals whose tag information is entered in NCIC.
“It’s reading just the tag,” Blair said. “If your name is not in NCIC, you’ve got nothing to worry about. You’re going to go about your business just like you did every other day, but if your name is in NCIC, you’re going to hit.”
Metro police cited multiple instances where LPR hits have helped locate and apprehend dangerous criminals, including one suspect accused of carjacking a victim in Memphis and then stealing a car in Nashville.
Metro Councilman Jeff Syracuse told News 2 the city worked for two years to ensure the LPR data collection was secure, sensitive and limited. He believes the data gathered during the six-month pilot program proves the city’s hard work has paid off, however, he said there are still questions that need answers before deciding whether the technology should be made permanent.
“There are some concerns and questions about where the placement of these pilot LPRs have been, and we’re going to get answers on that. Ultimately, what does this look like going forward if we do indeed keep the program? Where [will] the LPRs will be located?” Syracuse said.
Syracuse said city leaders will gather with Metro police, the District Attorney’s office, the public defender’s office, and the Community Oversight Board to talk about the data and collect feedback before Metro council votes on a resolution to make LPRs permanent.
Multiple Middle Tennessee law enforcement agencies have permanent LPR programs in place, including Mt. Juliet Police, Hendersonville Police, Belle Meade Police, and Lebanon Police.