Sumner County, Tn., law enforcement officials are using high-tech cameras to create a detailed picture of the whereabouts of thousands of cars, regardless of whether they are suspected of any link to criminal activity, The Tennessean reports. Police say this ability to capture license plates is among the most powerful new crime-fighting tools at their disposal, and that it has already led them directly to vehicles used in crimes.
It's also a type of government surveillance — spreading quickly, thanks to federal grants — that has raised privacy concerns across the U.S. and pushed police departments to consider how the cameras and records should be used. “I'm sure that there's going to be people out there that say this is an invasion of privacy,” said Gallatin Detective James Kemp. But “the possibilities are endless there for solving crimes. It's just a multitude of information out there — to not tap into it to better protect your citizens, that's ludicrous.” Police see potential in a map database that catches all of the locally scanned license plates. With that map, a detective can type in a license plate number seen at a crime scene — or even just a partial tag — and search for places where it has been spotted by cameras.