License plate scanners going live across 20 cities to help fight crime; opponents wary (MAP)

Map of license plate scanner locations. (Source: WOIO)
Map of license plate scanner locations. (Source: WOIO)

CUYAHOGA COUNTY, OH (WOIO) - On Tuesday, Cuyahoga County Council authorized spending $870,000 to place license plate scanning cameras at 20 intersections around the region.

They will only be placed in cities that requested them, which so far include:

  • Cleveland: Ontario Street and Carnegie Avenue
  • Cleveland Heights: Cedar and Lee roads
  • Euclid: East 222nd Street and Euclid Avenue
  • Fairview Park: Lorain and Story roads
  • Garfield Heights: Turney and Granger roads
  • Independence: Rockside and Brecksville roads
  • Lakewood: Eastbound Detroit Avenue at West 117th Street
  • Lyndhurst: Mayfield and Richmond roads
  • Maple Heights: Warrensville Center and Libby roads
  • Mayfield Heights: Mayfield Road at Walmart (west of SOM Center)
  • North Olmsted: Northbound Great Northern Boulevard at I-480 westbound
  • Olmsted Township: Stearns and Cook roads
  • Orange: Harvard Avenue and Orange Place
  • Parma: Ridge and Pearl roads
  • Shaker Heights: Warrensville Center Road and Chagrin Boulevard
  • Solon: SOM Center Road and Solon Road
  • South Euclid: Mayfield and South Green roads
  • Strongsville: Royalton Road on-ramp at I-71 north
  • University Circle: Mayfield Road and Euclid Avenue
  • Woodmere: Chagrin Boulevard and Brainard Road

Similar cameras are already in use in several cities, but are mounted on police cruisers.

One community is Fairview Park where Officer John Bandi is trained to operate them and believes they are useful.

"What we're using them for is stolen cars, wanted persons," he said.

Fairview Park Police Chief Erich Upperman believes the cameras and their use is misunderstood.

"The assumption that you can find out all kinds of information on people, all it is it's a license plate and a day and a time it went by a location," he said.

It wouldn't be until your plate was suspected to have been on a vehicle used in a crime that a search would be done.

Chief Upperman sees a large upside to the cameras: "The best thing is investigative. Where ours is gonna be is kind of a gateway where people come in oftentimes to commit crime on the west side."

The camera scans about a picture a second. They are fed into a database that can be used to locate plates or even plot crime maps.

Proponents call it a tool. Opponents call it a possible invasion of privacy.

The council has a balancing act. Personal privacy versus public safety. The concerns of some were eased before the vote when a sunset provision was added requiring the data collected to be deleted after a year.

Only police will have access to the information on the screen, much like LEADS information. And it will be closely monitored.

Homeland Security funds are covering $750,000 of the cost, the county will cover the remaining $120,000.

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