ACLU releases report against license plate scanning system used

ACLU releases report against license plate scanning system used by THP and other agencies

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THP said information from all license plates that are scanned, not just ones that show a criminal hit, is stored in a central database up to a year. THP said information from all license plates that are scanned, not just ones that show a criminal hit, is stored in a central database up to a year.
"We've apprehended several stolen vehicles," Trooper Jonathan Scott said. "We've recovered stolen license plates, wanted individuals, murder suspects." "We've apprehended several stolen vehicles," Trooper Jonathan Scott said. "We've recovered stolen license plates, wanted individuals, murder suspects."
"I just don't feel very comfortable with them being able to track me," Knoxville resident Ashley Campbell said. "I just don't feel very comfortable with them being able to track me," Knoxville resident Ashley Campbell said.

By SAMANTHA MANNING
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The American Civil Liberties Union is raising questions about a police system for automatically scanning license plates -- a system used by the Tennessee Highway Patrol for 3 years.

THP first purchased the license plate recognition cameras (LPR) in 2010 and currently have 48 in trooper cars throughout the state.

THP trooper Jonathan Scott said the cameras have been helpful in tracking down criminals on the road.

"We've apprehended several stolen vehicles," Scott said. "We've recovered stolen license plates, wanted individuals, murder suspects."

The cameras automatically scan tags within a 20-foot radius and then run it through a national crime database.

"The camera you'll notice is pointed at a 90 degree angle," Scott said. "What that does is it allows us to scan through parking lots."

THP said information from all license plates that are scanned, not just ones that show a criminal hit, is stored in a central database up to a year.

The access to that information is leading to outrage from the ACLU, which wrote the cameras lead to "pervasive, permanent monitoring" in a study released Wednesday.

"I wish they would just kind of focus on vehicles that match descriptions of a person that they're looking for rather than scanning everyone," Oak Ridge resident Ben Jefferson said.

"I just don't feel very comfortable with them being able to track me," Knoxville resident Ashley Campbell said.

But THP said it believes the cameras are in no way an invasion of privacy, saying driving is a privilege and not a right.

"They don't access personal registration database files or any kind of personal information," Scott said. "They don't track individuals."

THP said there are also plans to put a stationary LPR in use at the state capitol in Nashville.

Each camera comes at a cost of $20,000.

The Knoxville Police Department said it uses one LPR and the Pigeon Forge Police Department also has one.

The Knox County Sheriff's Office said it does not currently use the scanning system but is looking into the possibility.

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