Nashville councilmembers aren’t sure how much license plate readers should be used to solve crimes.
This week two proposals were in their last debate before either could become law, but a three-hour debate paused that.
Right now, the city has tight restrictions that requires individuals and government agencies to go through the Metro Council to install them in public spaces.
The camera and computer software combination allows the devices to scan every license plate that passes by and temporarily store the information in a database.
Many councilmembers voiced that no matter residents’ race they want to feel safe — but whether the LPRs create that feeling varies.
Councilmember Jonathan Hall, who is a Black man, said the city needs to get to the root of crime by investing in education, economic development and housing in historically marginalized communities. Neighborhoods in his district, like Haynes Park, have taken the lead to fundraise for their own license plate readers.
“If we’re so concerned about disproportionately impacted communities, let that be reflected in how we spend money in the budget,” he says.
He says LPRs can be used as a tool to fill gaps where there aren’t enough police officers, while councilmembers like Sandra Sepulveda are uplifting organizations like the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union and API of Middle Tennessee who are against the expansion.
“A lot of people do have concerns about this, and this isn’t something that can’t be rushed,” Sepulveda told her colleagues. “And it shouldn’t be rushed.”
One thing that is clear is that councilmembers do want tight rules to ensure privacy and equity are prioritized.
At least two changes to the expansion bill were made during the meeting. That included piloting the program for six to nine months before the council votes to keep the license plate readers and ensuring they’re deployed equally in all parts of the county.
It’s the second time Nashville councilmembers are pausing their conversation on license plate readers. And as discussions about the budget near, it’s not clear when the bills will be presented again.