License plate reader debate delayed in Metro Nashville until February

Special Reports

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – License plate reader technology was previously banned in Metro Nashville back in 2017.

After street racing problems caused public safety concerns, the conversation has been brought back into focus for the Metro Council. At the start of 2020 three different bills looked to address how LPRs could be utilized properly in Nashville.

“We need some more tools in our toolbox in order to help completely eradicate this dangerous activity,” District 26 Councilmember Courtney Johnston said.

Johnston, whose legislation was deferred until February 2, said she listened to people’s concerns on how the technology would affect policing and privacy.

“What we want to do is have technology in place so that in essence police are always there,” Johnston said. “It’s a bunch of still shots, and my legislation would require it be deleted. If it’s not being used in an active investigation and there’s some other criteria, then that data would be hard deleted after 30 days.”

Johnston explained that LPRs would be significantly less expensive than police body worn cameras because of the storage required. Metro Police Chief John Drake said he was in favor of installing the technology to help solve cases.

“We’ve had several silver alerts lately, a couple of AMBER alerts, drive by shootings,” Johnston said.

Gun violence is what led neighbors in Haynes Park to buy their own camera to deter crime.

“We didn’t know this was such a hot issue. We thought we could do this,” Gina Coleman said.

Neighbors went door to door this summer fundraising and researching how they could implement the technology themselves to protect their community. Coleman said people’s cars and homes were being shot during drive-by encounters.

Coleman said a community board met to decide which company would be best and went from there.

“They told us how much it would cost, they told us what we needed to do so we started doing it,” Coleman said.

Since installing the camera at the entrance of Haynes Park, Coleman said things have been quieter in the neighborhood.

Johnston’s bill is one of two still left for the Metro Council to debate on February 2nd. If approved LPR technology would be permitted within public right of ways in Nashville.


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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