Pros & Cons of License Plate Readers
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Soon there will be 37 more "License Plate Reader" or "LPR" cameras across Charlotte. They can scan more than 3,000 plates an hour. City council voted unanimously to approve more than $600,000 in grant funding to expand the program. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Major Johnny Jennings told Charlotte City Council, "We have some strategic locations throughout the city that we've identified that we will be putting these tag readers up."
The cameras, CMPD says, will be out in the open on power poles and traffic signals. They collect and store license plates, dates, times and locations of vehicles. The information is then run through crime data bases. Officers are looking for things like stolen cars, not speeders.
We asked CMPD how the cameras may be used during the DNC. A spokesman told us, "Chief will not be available to discuss what means, methods, staffing, specific strategies or resources (equipment or otherwise) prior to event."
The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina has raised concerns about the LPRs. It tells us in part, "The fact that police retain data on all vehicles, even if the drivers are not suspected of a crime or violation, raises tremendous privacy concerns...this technology could lead to the constant and routine tracking of countless innocent people who have done nothing wrong.
Residents who talked with us had mixed reactions. One man says, "The only way I think they should be able to invade your privacy is if you've broken the law in some kinda way." A woman says, "If its intent is to ensure people are safe on the roads, it wouldn't bother me." And another guy says, "They (the police) run your license plate when they want to anyway. It just makes it a little easier for them."
Major Jennings, who answered council's questions May 14th, has been previously quoted saying the department destroys "irrelevant" records after 180 days. He also says the cameras have so far not been challenged in court in Charlotte.