N.C. Legislator Wants More License Plate-Reading Cameras

The N.C. chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has raised concerns about the bill, in part because of a lack of underlying privacy protections in the state. Cities already use the technology within their limits.

by Paul B. Johnson, The High Point Enterprise / February 25, 2019

(TNS) — A state legislator who’s a retired city police chief has introduced a bill that would expand the use of electronic license plate readers across North Carolina, though a civil liberties group objects to the proposal.

Rep. John Faircloth, R-Guilford, filed House Bill 87 earlier this month. The legislation would allow electronic license tag readers to be placed along and operated from the right of way of state-maintained roadways.

Faircloth said the purpose of the bill is to allow law enforcement to have a network of license plate readers across North Carolina in situations such as the search for missing children or kidnapping victims. The license plate readers wouldn’t be used for traffic enforcement purposes, such as monitoring for speeding, Faircloth told The High Point Enterprise.

Cities and towns already use license tag readers within their municipal jurisdictions, which is permitted. House Bill 87 would allow the readers to be expanded along the right of way of roadways in the N.C. Department of Transportation system, said Faircloth, who in addition to being a former city police chief previously served on the High Point City Council.

The city of High Point doesn’t employ the electronic license tag reader system. The city is investigating the feasibility and cost of implementing a system, said Randy McCaslin, deputy city manager.

Expanding the license tag readers would give law enforcement a critical tool to catch a suspect in an emergency situation, Faircloth said.

“Let’s say there’s a bank robbery and someone has a license number of the car leaving the scene. They could put that number into the system, and all the readers across the state would have that number. If that car passed a reader, it would let law enforcement know a location,” he said. “It’s a way to put a net out there and try to find wanted vehicles.”

The N.C. chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has raised concerns about the bill, in part because of the lack of underlying privacy protections in the state.

“There are not uniform privacy protections for drivers who may encounter this technology,” ACLU spokeswoman Molly Rivera told The Enterprise.

A previous version of the bill passed in the state House but not in the Senate, Faircloth told The Enterprise.

“So this is the second round trying to get it through,” he said.

©2019 The High Point Enterprise (High Point, N.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.