Traffic cameras scanning thousands of license plates in this Northeast Ohio city

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MENTOR, Ohio (WJW) — Traffic cameras are scanning thousands of license plates throughout the city of Mentor 24 hours a day.

“We’ve installed 15 cameras in strategic locations throughout the city,” said Mentor Police Chief Ken Gunsch.

The license-plate reading cameras are mounted near entrances to the city of Mentor along I-90,  Route 2 and along Tyler Boulevard, the city’s main manufacturing corridor.

Gunsch said, “If any of those vehicles are stolen or there’s a warrant associated with it, or a missing person or various other reasons, it will send a notification to officers out on the street.”

And, if that vehicle is gone once officers arrive, the camera also records video to serve as both evidence and to establish an investigation timeline.

“If someone steals a vehicle, they’ll go ahead and drive that vehicle to another location to commit probably a worse crime.”

In operation for less than a month, the new technology has already led to the recovery of stolen vehicles and drug arrests.

But the cameras are designed to read the license plates of every single passing vehicle.

The ACLU of Ohio released a statement to FOX 8 in response to the technology. “Ohio has no state laws governing the use of this surveillance technology by police. For that reason, the ACLU of Ohio urges local governments to pass strong privacy laws restricting how automatic license plate readers can be utilized, how long the data is kept, who has access to it, how that data is used or shared, and to involve their residents in those decisions.”

Chief Gunsch responded  and said,  “We’re not viewing and seeing every plate — only if there’s something associated with a criminal offense.”

There are 13 cameras now in operation with two more expected to go online soon, with the city footing the $37,000 bill.

Neighboring Mentor-on-the-Lake, Willoughby and Eastlake are also part of the program.

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