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Is it me you're looking for? License plate reader cameras set to debut in Lexington

Lexington police cruiser
Josh James
Lexington police cruiser

New license plate reading technology is set to deploy in Lexington, but placement of the new cameras has already raised concerns with the NAACP, ACLU, and Human Rights Commission.

License Plate Readers, or LPRs, capture images and collect data from licenses and run those plate numbers against what are known as Hot Lists — those are databases meant to alert police to stolen vehicles, known wanted criminals, and repeat DUI offenders, according to CivicLex.

It’s a process Technology Consultant Charles Heal told PBS was done manually in the past with police simply checking plates of vehicles they pull over against a list on paper.

"The automated license plate reader does that same thing electronically, only far more efficiently," he explained.

And while the readers won’t be used for red light detection in Lexington, drivers on any public road will be subject to the LPRs.

Civil rights organizations are concerned about the locations of the readers, which will be placed around the city based on violent crime patterns. In the past, the ACLU has also pointed to privacy issues — specifically the potential for departments to capture the plate information of innocent drivers and retain that data for long periods of time.

Lexington’s policy will call for plate reader records to be deleted after 30 days.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.