Metro Council committee defers vote on LPRs

Committee members want more time to review data provided by Metro Police after the six-month pilot program.
Committee members want more time to review data provided by Metro Police after six-month pilot program.
Published: Aug. 1, 2023 at 11:09 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 2, 2023 at 6:50 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - A sense of safety and security is why some people are welcoming the possibility of adding license plate readers throughout Nashville. It’s a controversial topic after the Metro Nashville Police Department introduced a six-month pilot program to see how this would impact Music City.

“It’s a piece of mind for our neighbors, that’s what matters,” said Erma Johnson, a longtime homeowner in the Haynes Park neighborhood.

Johnson is a member and serves as the secretary of the Haynes Park Neighborhood Association. She said three years ago the association decided it was time to combat crime in their area by using their own money to put up two license plate readers near the entrances of their community.

“We know what it does for us in our neighborhood and how it deters any crime. People you know that want to do something they know the cameras are here, which means they may decide to go someplace else,” said Johnson.

Metro leaders held a joint Public Health and Safety Committee and Transportation Infrastructure Committee meeting Tuesday afternoon where they listened to several presentations of the LPRs impact.

The Metro Nashville Police Department conducted a six-month-long license plate reader pilot program to see how this technology could impact Nashville. Metro Police placed 24 LPRs throughout four quadrants of the city. They used crime data and statistics from 2021-2022 to determine the area of violent hotspots near major intersections or streets to install the LPRs.

During a special meeting Tuesday afternoon, police said 71 million license plates were read, resulting in 112 arrests. The District Attorney’s office had two representatives present how LPRs have been using solving recent homicides and violent crimes investigations.

“So, what we’re looking for is we’re looking for stolen vehicles, stolen plates, a person with warrants, and it was also hitting on sex offender’s registry and order of protections. A lot of our hits were sex offenders and order of protection, and we did nothing with those,” said Metro Police Deputy Chief Gregory Blair.

However, several groups like the Community Oversight Board, Tennessee Immigrant, and Refugee Rights Coalition, along with the Metropolitan Public Defender’s Office, shared data on why they don’t support LPR, claiming the highest level of law enforcement engagement is in certain communities.

“When we look at the verified hits heat map overlaid onto these two racial and poverty maps you can see where the areas where there’s the highest concentration of once again LPR activity tend to overwhelmingly tend to be in these non-white and low-income areas,” said one member of the Community Oversight Board.

Committee members want more time to review data provided by Metro Police after the six-month pilot program.

Some community members like Ifeanyi Da Silva who watched the presentations have issues with the possible implementation of LPRs. One of Da Silva’s biggest concerns is singling out minority demographics of Nashville.

“We were able to see tonight from the maps how it disproportionately focuses on black and brown and low-income communities. I do want to see crimes being solved. But for everyone and not just against us. I don’t want us to just be targeted,” said Da Silva.

Three years ago, Johnson said their neighborhood association paid for their own LPRs to deter crime. She said she wouldn’t mind seeing this technology in place over the city officially only if it’s done the right way.

“So, if Metro does what they need to do in the area of where they’re going to place them, and follows the law that they’re supposed to follow, then I think people may support it, but they have to have all of the information,” Johnson said.

Both committees voted to defer the LPR legislation to the next meeting. Metro Council committee members want to take additional time after receiving data analysis and the impacts on the LPRs pilot program and then have robust debate on the topic.