Collegedale Police Tout Value Of License Plate Readers

  • Tuesday, October 3, 2023
  • Gail Perry

The license plate readers recently installed by Southern Adventist University started a long discussion about the use of surveillance during the Collegedale Commission meeting Monday night. The school put them in for safety at the campus but the city has nothing to do with them other than responding if something of concern is reported to the Collegedale police, and help is requested. The city, however, does have three LPRs around town and Police Chief Jack Sapp was questioned about how those are being used.

The LPRs will “ping” police if the image of a tag is captured which is associated with a stolen vehicle, missing person or a person with an outstanding warrant among other offenses. The police can also enter a “hot list” which flags a tag if there is information available that ties it to a crime. If a tag is recognized by the cameras, the LPR system will alert police.

Abuse of the system is the concern, but Chief Sapp said every time an officer does a search of images, they must put a reason it is being done and any access to the system has an audit trail to track down who has used it. He said that the LPR system has been responsible for recovering multiple stolen vehicles, tens of thousands of dollars and multiple missing persons in the three years that they have been used in Collegedale.

Chief Sapp told the commissioners that almost every agency in Hamilton County now has LPRs and they all are capable of networking in the Chattanooga area and throughout the country. Cameras now can track a suspicious vehicle throughout different states as it travels. Data recorded by these devices is purged after 30 days, and is only kept if there is a reason for interest in the tag.

The city is also investing in other video recording devices to assist the police. Collegedale has received a grant that allowed the city to purchase 10 body cameras for the police department in addition to those bought earlier in the year. The grant was accepted so that the department will have enough for use by the city’s reserve officers plus a few extras. Now the body cameras used by Collegedale have been standardized and are all a single type made by Axon. These cameras do not record unless they are activated to do so. When video is captured, it is sent to a server and kept in the event data is needed later. The commissioners voted to approve this purchase unanimously.

To be in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration regulations, the Collegedale Airport has to clear trees to remove obstructions to visibility and keep the runway approaches safe. Some trees are on property along Apison Pike that is owned by McKee. The city has received a letter from McKee with stipulations for the process for giving access to their property.

A change order was approved at the meeting for the Tucker Road Greenway sidewalk in the area of the Norfolk Southern Trail derailment. It has been determined that the slope of the new sidewalk is at an angle that will require a handrail. The commissioners were told that the grade of the property did not change, but that the original sidewalk there had been built before the requirement was in place. Norfolk Southern has agreed to pay the additional cost of $19,840 for the handrails.

City Manager Wayon Hines announced that Edgmon Road will be completely closed for repairs for two weeks beginning Oct. 16 until Oct. 27 to repair a section of road near the sewer pump station that is failing. A flashing digital message board has already been put up to notify of the upcoming road closure.


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