Woody and Jim

Woody and Jim

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Tennessee May Have Screwed Itself With New License Plate Readers

Counter terror surveillance license plate readers

Photo: Getty Images

Davidson County has stirred up a lot of controversy by starting to use license plate readers at intersections. While Metro has maintained this will help law enforcement track down wanted criminals and help find Amber alert children, many are concerned they're becoming Big Brother.

Not many want their data collected by these readers that can track where you go and when you do it.

But there's a big wrench in big brother's plans. It's the brand new Tennessee license plates.

Yes, at the same time the license plate readers are going in, totally new Tennessee tags are going on people's cars.

The new plates (white letters and numbers on a blue background) are almost unreadable by the newly installed cameras.

Electrical engineer Tim Holman told WREG news:

“I have had a lot of plates from a lot of different states go by my cameras over the years and I’ve never seen this issue till this new plate came out this year”.

Holman set up his LPR (License Plate Reader) cameras to help police with crime near his home. But when he used them to try to identify tags after neighborhood car break-ins, the readers detected nothing. He found readers cannot read our new tags at night. He says his cameras are at the same level of capability as the LPRs used throughout the state.

“Cameras use a certain type of invisible light called infrared light,” Holman said. “And the plate has to have good contrast between the letters and the background. And that contrast is missing in the new Tennessee plate. It is very hard to read the lettering against the background in infrared night vision. These plates should have been tested to a certain visibility standard for nighttime viewing, and my question would be, where are those test results before those plates were manufactured by the state of Tennessee,” Holman said.

It seems the people who designed the plates might not have talked with those familiar with LPRs.

Tennessee Department of Revenue issued a statement:

“We are aware of this issue, and we are engaging in conversations with our partners at the Tennessee Department of Safety to more fully understand it.

It would be premature to discuss any further actions we may take until we fully vet the concerns raised.”

The Tennessee Department of Revenue has mailed out 400,000 plates and that number will swell to 5.5 million blue plates by the end of the year.

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