Law enforcement, ACLU differ on privacy of license plater reader cameras

Special Reports

NASHVILLE, Tenn., (WKRN) — Tennessee Highway Patrol was one of the first agencies to get license plate reader cameras in 2010. 

Lieutenant Wayne Dunkleman, lead of the interdiction team, said the cameras see what troopers can’t.

“We’re required off days; we’re required down time,” Dunkleman said, “That camera is not.”

In the last ten years, THP’s 65-camera arsenal has caught a number of crimes. Law enforcement’s goal is to act rather than react.

“THP wants to locate that AMBER alert within seconds, within minutes,” Dunkleman said, “THP wants to locate that person that may have dementia, Alzheimers – and it’s 15 degrees outside.”

However, the cameras come with controversy over privacy issues.

“Absolutely not is THP tracking, tracing or trying to locate an individual citizen that committed no crimes,” Dunkleman said.

The American Civil Liberties Union is outspoken on the subject of license plate readers. They deem the technology acceptable when used for AMBER alerts, kidnappings and violent crimes.

Policy Director Brandon Tucker had reservations. “They’re used around the clock, they collect millions of license plates,” Tucker said. “You can piece together where someone goes to and comes from with a pretty comprehensive picture.”

The ACLU is calling for additional restrictions. “What we see is a broad brush approach to wanting to utilize the tool for low level offenses, misdemeanors, parking violations,” Tucker said, “That type of data accumulation is not a good response.”

Exactly how private license plate readers are will likely be an ongoing conversation. 

In the meantime, law enforcement’s technology works together nationwide. 

“[We] locate stolen vehicles, locate missing persons, locate persons with medical issues,” Dunkleman said.

News 2 is digging deeper into the impact of LPR cameras and the probability of them expanding into other Tennessee communities.

Click here to read more from our special report – “Lights, Camera, Caught”.

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