police_cars_Brentwood

By MATT BLOIS

Brentwood is considering installing license plate readers and video cameras at several parks to deter car burglaries.

At an informational meeting for City Commissioners, Assistant Police Chief Tommy Walsh said there have been a rash of car burglaries during the past several months.

“It appears if things continue … we will have a record number of these crimes in the city, the most we’ve ever had,” he said. 

To combat the problem, the Police Department suggested using license plate readers and video cameras at several public parks. The readers could identify every car entering the park.

If someone reports a car burglary, police could review the license plate data and video of cars in the area during the burglary. Police Chief Jeff Hughes said officers could enter data about suspicious vehicles into the system.

If one of those cars shows up at another park, police officers would get a notification on their phones, and someone could check on the area.

“There is no perfect system. This isn’t fail proof, but it certainly enhances and maximizes our ability to be more efficient, using technology, and hopefully drive some of these numbers down,” he said. “It is really frustrating when we lock up one group and another one comes in right behind them.”

Hughes mentioned that the Brentwood Police Department could potentially share the information with departments in other cities that use similar systems, such as Belle Meade or Hendersonville. That would allow the cities to cooperate if a thief moves among cities.

The Brentwood Police Department already has used license plate readers on a patrol cars. The data lets an officer know quickly if a vehicle is listed as stolen.

The city listed Crockett Park, Granny White Park, Tower Park and Owl Creek Park as possible locations for the license plate readers. The Police Department plans to put the readers on highly visible poles, which should deter criminals from stealing in the first place.

Hughes said the department also is considering purchasing a mobile, covert camera. This camera could be attached to any vehicle and would be less visible. That would help police use the technology in areas without permanent readers.

The city’s capital improvement plan already includes $100,000 for security improvements to Brentwood parks.

Commissioner Anne Dunn liked the idea, but asked Hughes whether the license plate readers could be viewed as an invasion of privacy.

“I think cameras are very helpful. But a lot of people are very concerned about their privacy and they don’t want anybody taking pictures of their license plate,” she said. “I know there will be people who will say, ‘This is an invasion of my privacy.’”

Hughes said the readers would only be installed in public places. The data would be stored by an outside company and the information would only be stored for a short time. He also pointed out that many private businesses are already using this type of technology.

“We’re not going down a path that is not already well established,” he said.

The security company Flock reported that at least one Home Owners Association in Brentwood plans to install a license plate reader soon. The company wouldn’t say which subdivision had purchased the reader.

The City Commission didn’t take any action on the proposal. City Manager Kirk Bednar said the Commission could vote on it before the end of the calendar year.