Editor’s Note: In a previous version of this story, we reported that sources said production of the license plates was stopping until issues involving some license plate reader cameras could be resolved. While there was discussion about stopping production, the license plates continue to be produced.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — There are still more questions than answers after a News 2 investigation reveals major problems with Tennessee’s new license plate.
The issue? Some LPR cameras can’t see the new plate at night.
According to multiple sources, the plates are designed in such a way that the infrared light can’t differentiate between the reflectivity of the letters and the background elements of the plate. So some LPR readers see the plate as a blur or not at all.
Officials say 400,000 plates have already been issued. Ultimately 5.5 million new license plates were scheduled to be shipped out over the course of the year.
Joe Patty is a security consultant for Sky Cop, the vendor that installed Belle Meade’s 19 camera LPR system. Belle Meade’s LPR is capable of identifying the new license tags at night, but that isn’t the case for everyone.
“The issue comes at night. The real problem, the reflectivity is not enough at night,” said Patty. “Other vendors are having issues with not seeing the tag at all. Apparently, not everything was thought out correctly on these tags and the right questions were not asked.”
When asked what Patty would say to the state and those who developed the design and seemingly rushed it into production without proper testing, he said, “I would just ask the question — Why was due process not done?”
Patty is a former Memphis cop of 27 years, who spent the last eight years of his career managing the city’s 2,000 video cameras and LPR systems.
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Patty said if News 2 doesn’t illuminate the problem, and the state keeps making license plates that are not read by many LPR cameras, the results could have been very damaging.
“The end result here is, if the technology can’t be fixed, then every Tennessee tag going into the FBI database, called NCIC, is compromised, and that will compromise local law enforcement as well,” Patty said. “Even right down to the level of a local patrol car, that’s behind a car and it can’t read [the tag] and there is an AMBER Alert, or maybe there’s a missing child in that car, or a wanted felon in that car. These are missed opportunities if these problems are not fixed.”
When asked if the state dropped the ball, Patty said, “Maybe certain people didn’t know to ask certain questions. If you are not in that line of work, but there should have been some oversite to make sure that reflectivity did not change or get compromised in the tags. I’m sure a lot of thought went into the design of it and how it looked on the back of the car. I don’t know how much thought was put into the law enforcement side and the technology side.”
There are still many unanswered questions, like who authorized the plate and was it tested before it was put on the road? How much might it cost taxpayers to fix this problem?
News 2 reached out to the Department of Revenue multiple times in the last three days. A spokeswoman said they have no further comment other than what they have already released:
“We are aware of this issue, and we are engaging in conversations with our partners at the Tennessee Department of Safety to more fully understand it. It would be premature to discuss any further actions we may take until we fully vet the concerns raised.”