AUSTIN (KXAN) — Your vehicle’s license plate may soon be scanned while driving around Austin.
Later this month, local leaders will decide whether to reinstate the Austin Police Department’s license plate reader program.
It’s a controversial police investigation tool that was eliminated as part of the $21 million Austin City Council cut from the police budget in 2020.
A recent proposal from District 6 City Councilwoman Mackenzie Kelly would reinstate the license plate reader program, which would cost taxpayers $114,775.
In June, Austin City Council postponed this item to a vote on July 28.
According to APD, these high-tech cameras helped its detectives crack dozens of violent crime cases between 2016 and 2020.
“A lot of crimes are not solved right now, because we don’t have it,” APD Commander Jeff Greenwalt said. “We have fewer people, we have more crime, and we have less tools to solve those crimes with.”
LPRs collect pictures of license plates which are than stored on a massive database that includes the make, model and color of cars.
These cameras were mounted on street poles, highway overpasses and police patrol cars.
With city council set to vote on bringing them back, there’s some controversy when it comes to privacy concerns and the possibility of police misusing this tracking technology.
However, APD officials informed KXAN audits on the database would take place every three months and officers would be subject to criminal codes for misuse of the technology.
Kelly believes it’ll offer Austin a big benefit when it comes to security.
“We’re not going to abuse the technology, we’re simply going to allow the officers to have the opportunity to use it in a way that makes the city safer.”
The police department already has 15 LPR devices from its use prior to the 2020 budget cuts.
With this in mind, APD officers would almost immediately be able to start using them if local leaders decided to reinstate the license plate reader program.