Raleigh Police Chief pushes for more license plate readers to catch criminals

Sean Coffey Image
Wednesday, April 26, 2023
Raleigh Police Chief push for more license plate readers
EMBED <>More Videos

Chief Patterson was advocating for House Bill 198 and she says the technology it would fund has already been invaluable in solving recent crimes in the area.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Raleigh Police Chief Estella Patterson was at the Legislative Office Building advocating for increased funding for automatic license plate readers in the state.

"It has been the most beneficial decision that I have made as a chief for the safety of our community," Chief Patterson said at the hearing.

She said the cameras, which are fixed on roadways or police vehicles and provide information on the identity of drivers by scanning their plates, have saved officers thousands of hours and helped swifty apprehend criminals.

Now, she wants funding for more of them.

"If we had the authority to install Alpers along dot right ways, it would greatly enhance our ability to locate these offenders and victims in a more timely manner."

But civil advocacy groups are concerned about privacy, and the potential risk of data misuse.

ACLU policy analyst Jay Stanley says it comes down to how narrowly the technology is used to apprehend criminals, writing in a report that a "proliferation of cameras and widespread sharing allow for the creation of intrusive records of our comings and goings, create chilling effects, and open the door to abusive tracking."

But Patterson insists that won't happen here.

"I am not supporting this legislation as a pretext to use license plate readers for locating vehicles for minor traffic offenses. Neither am I intend to use them to track individuals were violating privacy laws."

Drivers in Raleigh are split on the issue. One man who spoke with ABC11 says he doesn't trust RPD to apply the technology as narrowly as they say they will.

"I just feel like the surveillance is a little bit too much, no privacy nowadays," said Johnathan Jones of Raleigh. "I understand on one point, but I just don't trust them to use it for the reasons that they say."

She said that her officers spend thousands of hours trying to locate vehicles involved in carjackings, kidnappings and other crimes often with no results. She went on to talk about a recent case involving a carjacking that took place with an infant in the back seat.

ABC11 Neighborhood Safety Tracker

There are concerns about the technology including from some civil rights organizations about potential misuse.

Chief Patterson's plea comes as police departments across the state are trying to also increase staffing.


AG Stein pushing to hire more law enforcement officers

Rocky Mount to boost starting pay for police officers to $60K

Police salaries not helping fix staffing shortage challenges

'We're on the right track.' Law enforcement agencies across NC pledge to increase women officers