Update 8/2/23: Metro Council deferred RS2023-2342 at their August 1 meeting. They will consider the resolution in their final meeting of the term on Tuesday August 15. 

Walk Bike Nashville is urging Metro Council to defer RS2023-2342, a resolution that would greenlight the full implementation of license plate reader technology (LPR) in Metro Nashville. Nationally, safe streets technology, including LPRs, can be used to improve road safety while minimizing interactions with the police. This has not been the outcome of this pilot.

As stated in our letter to Metro Council in 2021, Walk Bike Nashville supports automated enforcement techniques for speed limit, reckless driving, and red light camera enforcement as short-term solutions ahead of permanent infrastructure improvements. Walk Bike Nashville supports the Nashville Department of Transportation and Multimodal Infrastucture’s (NDOT) use of LPRs for parking enforcement, which is separate from this pilot. Unfortunately, there is no plan within the Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) to use LPR technology to advance traffic safety, and uses like red light cameras are prohibited under state law. 

For example, LPRs are not being used to find the driver that committed a deadly hit-and-run on Dickerson Pike this weekend, killing pedestrian Uoli Mejia Primero and her unborn child. Although a news reporter cited the end of the pilot as the reason LPRs were not used in the investigation, it is unclear if, or to what extent, they have been utilized to identify hit-and-run drivers throughout the pilot. If they were used, it’s unlikely that the success rate was higher than the 6.08% success rate on verified hits throughout the pilot.

In the pilot, LPRs were used almost exclusively for recovering stolen vehicles. Following the deadliest year on record for pedestrians, we question if this is the right intervention, especially considering equity and cost/benefit questions raised by the pilot. 

For example, only 1 of the 24 LPR cameras was placed in West Nashville,at the intersection of Charlotte Pike and Whitebridge Road. This raises the question, how do we equitably distribute LPRs in a 500-square mile county? Will criminals use neighborhood roads to evade LPRs installed on the pikes? 

In addition to the lack of information provided on the equitable distribution of LPRs, very little has been shared publicly regarding the potential cost, effectiveness, security protections, or procurement process. For example, we do know that LPRs have helped recover 80 cars, but we don’t know the cost. If the pilot program cost $5 million, that cost Metro $62,500 per recovered car. There are likely more cost-effective interventions to save lives and improve safety on our streets. 

Metro Nashville Community Oversight (MNCO) has shared additional data: 

  • Over the course of the pilot
    • MNPD recovered 80 vehicles, or 6.08% of verified hits
  • Over course of 10-day period MNCO has comprehensive data
    • Total scans*: 3,556,339
    • Total hits**: 1,458
    • Total hit rate: 0.041%
    • Verified hits***: 119
    • Verified hit rate: 0.0033%
    • Recoveries/apprehensions: 9
    • Recovery/apprehension rate: 0.00025%

*Scans are all plates read by the LPRs

**Hits are plates that match a license plate being search for

***Verified hits are confirmed by real people that the “hit” is accurate 

This data illustrates how rare an LPR scan results in a recovered car. MNPD will present additional data at a joint meeting of the Metro Council’s Public Health and Safety Committee and Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Tuesday August 1 at 4:00. Council will vote on full implementation just two-and-a-half hours later, leaving no time for community input and virtually no time for council members to digest the pilot’s findings. Given the unaddressed concerns expressed here and by organizations across Nashville, Metro Council should defer RS2023-2342 at tonight’s meeting. 


Additional reading:


Fix our Streets First | 2021 Letter to Metro Council

Walk Bike Nashville Opposes BL2021-961 | 2022 Letter to Metro Council