As the Mt. Juliet Police Department marked 100 interceptions with its automated license plate recognition program Guardian Shield, Lebanon Police Department officials said they are seriously considering using a similar program.
MJPD started using the program April 1, 2020, at an annual contract cost of $89,000, according to Cpt. Tyler Chandler. There were no start-up costs.
As of last Friday, 57 stolen cars, 30 stolen license plates, and two stolen trailers have been recovered. The automated reading system – which uses equipment mounted on 24 traffic lights in Mt. Juliet — also alerted the department to 11 wanted persons and one missing juvenile, who were found.
The system also led to a TBI Most Wanted murder suspect, and, a murder suspect from Louisiana, both recovered, said Chandler.
“Those initial alerts and investigations led to an additional 25 wanted persons, four stolen guns, four stolen cars operating with stolen plates, 30 incidents involving drugs, 21 driver’s license violations, two stolen plates and another missing juvenile,” said Chandler.
While not all alerts lead to a successful interception, since the system was started Mt. Juliet vehicle theft is down 36 percent, and vehicle burglaries are down 48 percent, said Chandler. These statistics came after reviewing data from the last six months of 2019 to the last six months of 2020.
Initially a somewhat controversial system because people were concerned their privacy may be invaded and tickets for running red lights would be issued, MJPD officials said the program is not enforcement-based nor does it access in a database containing personnel information.
The system gives an alert on vehicles associated with a crime. The equipment records video and images of the vehicle and the information is kept for just 30 days.
“The technology does not know who is driving or who is in the car,” said Chandler. “More importantly, the system does not access the Department of Safety’s license plate database, so there is no way to access personal data or determine who owns the vehicle.”
Some of the major alerts issued by Guardian Shield include April 8, 2020, when a murder suspect from Louisiana was located at a local hotel; April 15, 2020, when an adult from Antioch was arrested on a warrant of felony aggravated robbery; July 17, 2020, when the system alerted MJPD to the SUV driven by a murder suspect from Robertson County; Aug. 3, 2020, when an alert was given on a car stolen from Nashville during an armed robbery; Jan. 8, 2021, when an alert was given on a car that was stolen during an armed carjacking in Nashville a few days prior.
Lebanon Police’s plans
LPD Chief Mike Justice said his department is “moving forward” in getting bids and information for license plate recognition technology from two companies. Justice said his department currently has two mobile license plate recognition units, which are cameras on vehicle patrols.
LPD Public Information Officer Sgt. PJ Hardy said possible locations for ALPRs in Lebanon that the department most wants to monitor are off Interstate 40 from Nashville, West Main Street and Highway 109.
Hardy said there is a trend with suspects stealing vehicles from another county and then come into the local community.
“Hopefully after research we will get our ducks in a row and present the research to the County Commission prior the end of this budget year, for the new budget in July,” said Hardy. “We are moving forward. Costs are up in the air at this point, but we hope to get a green light.