License-plate reading camera proposal creating controversy

FAIRVIEW PARK, Ohio – License-plate reading cameras may be mounted at an intersection near you, to catch criminals.

Or maybe to watch law-abiding citizens’ every move?

“As long as it keeps us safe, I don’t see any harm in it.”

“They got enough cameras. So I think more, would be excessive.”

There is currently a proposal to mount such cameras in 18 northeast Ohio suburbs.

One of them would be in Fairview Park, where the plan is to mount four cameras here at the intersection of Lorain and Story Roads, a heavily traveled area in close proximity to a major hospital and bridge, which are potential terrorist targets, according to Police Chief Erich Upperman.

He says, “They’ll be mounted either on a free-standing pole or on the mast arm like where the traffic lights are.”

The program is a joint effort between federal state and local law enforcement, made possible by an 870-thousand dollar terrorism grant.

Cameras will take photos that would then be sent to a database.

If a crime happens in a specific area, investigators will be able to locate cars linked to that crime quickly.

But civil rights activists are crying foul.

Mike Brickner, senior policy director with the Ohio American Civil Liberties Union, says the cameras are an abuse of privacy and adds there are no laws in place in Ohio to protect our privacy.

“Automatic license plate readers, and a lot of other technology, can have really great uses. They can be used for law enforcement and other purposes. But when you bring about that technology, you have to have rules in place to make sure that it’s used in the way that they intend,” says Brickner.

Chief Upperman adds, “We’re not keeping track of what you’re doing. It’s only if you come into our radar because you did something or you are planning something that.”

The program is set to begin in June of next year.

License plate information could be stored in a database anywhere from 30 days to one year.