Hamilton County to Install 122 License Plate Reader Cameras Despite Privacy Concerns

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The Tennessee Conservative [By Adelia Kirchner] –

On Wednesday, the Hamilton County Commission unanimously voted to accept a $1.2 million state grant for the purposes of purchasing and installing 122 new license plate reader cameras (LPRs).

The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office will receive 59 of these cameras for unincorporated parts of the county. 

Chattanooga will receive 35 of the cameras, East Ridge will receive 15, and Red Bank will receive seven.

Signal Mountain is slated to receive the remaining six cameras. However, the Town Council has not yet officially accepted the state grant due to privacy concerns.

During the November 15th meeting, county resident Rick Walser, spoke in opposition of the LPRs.

Walser is part of a citizen’s group called Save Chattanooga, which has been working hard to overturn Chattanooga’s Climate Action Plan meant to supposedly “protect Chattanoogans’ quality of life.” 

“Can’t we use that money on something other than a citizen surveillance tool that’s going to track every movement?” asked Walser.

Hamilton County Sheriff Austin Garrett also spoke at the meeting and said that the state grant can only be used for the cameras.

The Sheriff went on to say that the LPRs don’t invade privacy but are a tool for law enforcement to better mitigate crime.

“It’s not overreach,” said Garrett. “One of the reasons I was elected by the people in this county was to be efficient, be a visionary, and implement ideas and methods to reduce crime. This does that.”

Currently, all patrol vehicles with the Sheriff’s Office are equipped with an LPR according to Garrett.

Regarding privacy concerns, Sheriff Garret said that locals shouldn’t really expect privacy while out in public.

“You’re in the public eye. Your car’s in the public eye,” said Garrett. “You have no expectation of privacy on that tag. Inside your car, you do. Inside your home, you do. On your person, you do.”

Commissioner Gene-o Shipley (R-Soddy-Daisy) has also previously stated that the only privacy being “interrupted” by LPRs is the privacy of “people that probably need to be in jail or are going to go to jail anyway.”

Commissioner Chip Baker (R-Signal Mountain) said that he sees the cameras as simply an extension of what deputies already do.

“You’re just automating that process,” said Baker.

Still, many Tennesseans worry that the installation of even more LPRs only furthers the possibility of their hometowns turning into “surveillance cities,” and with Chattanooga’s SMART City initiatives and similar plans being considered in other Tennessee cities it’s no wonder.

The Hamilton County Commission’s decision comes shortly after the removal of LPRs across the City of Nashville. 

The cameras were installed in Nashville as part of a six-month pilot program that ended over three months ago. They were only recently taken down after Councilmember Emily Benedict made an official proposal to do so.

Reportedly, the Nashville Department of Transportation did end up removing the LPRs without the council having to take action.

About the Author: Adelia Kirchner is a Tennessee resident and reporter for the Tennessee Conservative. Currently the host of Subtle Rampage Podcast, she has also worked for the South Dakota State Legislature and interned for Senator Bill Hagerty’s Office in Nashville, Tennessee. You can reach Adelia at adelia@tennesseeconservativenews.com.

5 thoughts on “Hamilton County to Install 122 License Plate Reader Cameras Despite Privacy Concerns

  • November 17, 2023 at 6:52 pm

    Ever shine a spotlight into the lens of a camera, it blinds the camera.

    Same thing occurs when a ring of infrared lights are around a license plates.

    EBAY, TEMU, all sell these lights, bigger/brighter the better.

  • November 22, 2023 at 7:34 pm

    Surveillance cameras arguably violate the Fourth Amendment and as far as I can determine do not significantly reduce crime. They are a feel-good waste of money.

  • November 24, 2023 at 2:05 pm

    Gene Shipley sounds like Jeff Sessions. Nazi pig.

  • November 27, 2023 at 11:51 pm

    All tyranny is introduced by……”It’s for your protection” or “It’s for the greater good” or “We’re from the Gov’t and were here to help.” Yeah, they really care about us. 🙄 How about quit putting us under a microscope & leave us alone!

  • December 7, 2023 at 3:34 am

    No expectation of privacy because we are outside of our place of residence? Where does that thought lead? How about devices to listen in on conversations held in a park or a restaurant? Does our Sheriff think that would be ok too? How can a man who divides the public he is supposed to serve into known criminals and unknown criminals be counted on not to abuse the law? If the last few years have taught us anything it is that if, for convenience sake, law enforcement is given surveillance tools that bypass our Constitutional rights, they will abuse those tools every single time. The people who lead these agencies are politicians or hold their position and the pleasure of politicians. They cannot be trusted. Politicians, and Sheriffs, can be voted out of office and Sheriff Garrett’s lack of respect for his constituents demonstrates the need for a new Sheriff.


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