License plate readers proposed alongside state highways in Clarksville

CLARKSVILLE, TN (CLARKSVILLE NOW) – The Clarksville Police Department may add a new investigative tool whose aim is to enhance both public and officer safety, while improving departmental productivity and efficiency.

A resolution is on the Clarksville City Council agenda for January to express the support of the council for a license plate reader (LPR) system for CPD, according to a news release from city spokesman Jimmy Settle.

What are LPRs?

LPRs are high-speed cameras that are equipped to take a picture of a vehicle’s license plate and, with computer software, translate the image into text that includes the license plate number, location of the vehicle, date and time of the photograph, and in some cases the color, make and model of the vehicle.

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Regionally and across Tennessee, hundreds of law enforcement agencies have LPR programs and are currently sharing data through the National Crime Information Center (NCIC).

Thousands of such agencies across the nation are using the technology to close cases.

CPD installed mobile LPR equipment in 2010 and has had a subscription to private LPR data for several years, the release said.

Police Chief David Crockarell, with Mayor Joe Pitts in attendance, began introducing the concept, including what it does, and does not do, earlier this month before leaders of both the local Hispanic community and NAACP. The information-sharing process within the community is ongoing.

“As law enforcement technology continues to evolve and advance, let me applaud Chief Crockarell and our Police Department for responsibly and carefully choosing to implement license plate readers,” said Pitts in the release.

“Just as we did when body-worn cameras were first introduced, our Police Department carefully evaluated the effectiveness of this technology to expand our ability to protect the public. The addition of license plate readers at key state highway intersections will be a lifesaver for our citizens.”

Crockarell said implementing the technology is in keeping with CPD’s mission statement of being “dedicated to providing a safe environment to our citizens and visitors.”

“Clarksville is one of the safest large cities in Tennessee,” Crockarell said in the release. “The primary goal of this program is to reduce victimization, solve and reduce violent crime, and locate the missing. I appreciate the support I have received from Mayor Pitts and leadership from the NAACP and the Hispanic community. I am confident that our City Council members share the same goals and will show their support as well.”

What can LPRs do?

While directed at vehicles traveling on state route rights-of-way only (not neighborhoods or commercial storefronts), the data collected can automatically be compared to an approved law enforcement Hot List.

Crockarell says LPR’s would be used to enhance investigative capabilities, by gathering leads to investigate crimes reported to CPD and other law enforcement agencies.

The goal is to reduce crime, and specifically, violent crime where vehicles are involved. These incidents include homicides and violent assaults, armed robberies and carjackings.

Among other assistance, LPR’s can also be used to reduce stolen vehicle cases that begin as vehicle burglaries where there is often a gun inside the vehicle, subsequently enabling the vehicle to be used in escalated violence.

Additionally, the technology will assist CPD in locating the missing to include runaway children, closing Amber Alert and Silver Alert cases, and locating those who are having a mental health crisis and are mobile. Plus, the technology will assist CPD in traffic crash investigations to include fatal crashes and those involving pedestrians.

What LPRs and CPD cannot/will not do

Crockarell says LPR technology cannot focus on the driver of the vehicle. The camera is only directed at the vehicle tag area. It does not provide facial recognition or vehicle occupant identification.

It will not be used in prosecuting minor traffic violations such as speeding.

The data is not for general surveillance and will not be shared with immigration enforcement. It also will not be used to determine if a license plate is expired, the release said.

The technology, Crockarell emphasizes, will not identify any vehicle occupant, nor provide anyone’s personal information.

Next steps

CPD has been appropriated state funds and has submitted a letter of intent to launch the LPR program. District Attorney General Robert Nash is in support of it, the release said.

With continued support, CPD will submit a final portion of the application for the project at an estimated cost of under $200,000.

From there, the project would be permitted, followed by the installation of cameras exclusively along state highway routes to potentially include:

  • Tiny Town Road/Peachers Mill Road
  • Fort Campbell Boulevard south of state Highway 374
  • Fort Campbell Boulevard at State Line Road
  • Wilma Rudolph Boulevard at Needmore Road
  • Madison Street at Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway
  • Providence Boulevard at Peachers Mill Road
  • State Highway 48/13 at Riverside Drive
  • College Street at Kraft Street
  • Interstate 24 exits 1, 4, 8 and 11

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