NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Several law enforcement agencies and one Tennessee city continue to report issues with License Plate Recognition cameras seeing the state’s new license plate at night.
Agencies from Middle, East, and West Tennessee have confirmed difficulty seeing the new plates at night in a problem that surfaced at least two weeks ago. The cameras have routinely been used to find fugitives, stolen cars, and, in some cases, missing people.
The Mt. Juliet Police Department, which has pointed to the success of its ‘Guardian Shield’ camera network as a crimefighting tool, said certain low light conditions have presented an issue.
In a community Facebook discussion on February 18, Captain Tyler Chandler of the Mt. Juliet Police said, “Our new LPR system is having issues with the new plates. Not super major problems, but we do have locations where they are not getting reads, and those are locations where it is super low light at night. We are looking into that issue, the state is looking the issue, and our vendor is also looking into the issue to somehow come up with a solution to get it back to where it was reading well with our existing plates that we use to have.”
Also on Friday, Scott Erland, Communications Manager for the Knoxville Police Department emailed this statement to News 2:
“We were first made aware of the issues with the new Tennessee license plates about two weeks ago. There are two problems in particular.
One, our LPRs have had problems with nighttime reads. Two, the LPRs periodically misidentify the state the tag is associated with.
To my knowledge, we have not been in communication with the state about the issue.
However, we have been in contact with our LPR provider, Flock Safety, who is aware of those issues and working on solutions to address them.”
Wesley Wright is a commissioner in Lakeland, a city of 15,000 people just outside Memphis. “I think it is something that needs to be addressed with more transparency like I said. I see a big problem with it, especially when it is taxpayer dollars here This is not private money.”
Lakeland has no police force. Wright said the city relies on the Shelby County Sheriff’s office for police protection, utilizing 20 Flock brand LPR cameras situated around the city to help the sheriff’s department keep citizens safe.
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When asked if he feels the state has been transparent, the commissioner responded, “I don’t think so. This is something they should have known from the get-go. We are stressed as it is, having enough men and women, boots on the ground for our police to keep things in check. And now we are risking our camera systems being far less effective.”
Commissioner Wright told News 2 he has many questions about the plate that includes how it was tested, why production has not been halted pending a fix, and what will happen to the more than half a million plates already issued to motorists.
“Most crime happens at night, criminals know this and will exploit this. And now you have plates in distribution. And even if you recall and distribute proper plates you still have those other plates out there that could cause problems for Flock and other camera systems. That doesn’t fly with me. How much evidence do you need? So that doesn’t add up. Either they are deciding, I think there’s too much damage to turn back now. Too many plates have been distributed. That’s too much money spent. But this is something you should have been on top of to make sure they are up to standard. Should have come up with a plan of action and execute it. Someone dropped the ball.”
On the issue of thousands more plates being produced despite the possible flaw, Wright added, “And that’s the problem. With people driving around with plates, and a lot of people with ill intent using these plates, cause you don’t change your plate every year. So these plates will be in circulation for many years, and that is a big issue.”
State offices were closed Monday for Presidents Day, but the Tennessee Department of Revenue referred back to a statement from last week:
“The Department of Revenue and TRICOR have not stopped producing new license plates and any media reports indicating otherwise are incorrect. Drivers should continue to renew their registration and receive their new plate in the month of renewal. Both the Department of Safety and Homeland Security and the Department of Revenue are evaluating claims regarding how new plates interact with license plate readers at night. Until this evaluation is complete, there will be no changes to the production or renewal process.”
Flock Safety said news regarding a fix could come as soon as Tuesday. The company issued this statement last week:
“Our customers in Tennessee informed us that while the characters on the new plates are being read correctly, the state identification may need to continue to improve. We operate in 40+ states and our team knows how to rapidly adjust our software and machine learning to capture this new plate design at the same high level of accuracy as that of the previous designs. This is not an unprecedented situation when new plate designs are introduced, and we are 100% confident that it will be wholly rectified shortly.”