Small Town with 37 Traffic Camera

I have no idea how I wandered over to this story. There is a nice little town called Mount Juliet, Tennessee. The population is about 24,000 and they have their own police department.

I like any police department that has a photo of an officer in sun glasses eating a donut on their home page.

The police want to buy 37 license plate recognition cameras. That is the kind that are mounted on telephone poles, not the kind on police cars. The police say they are not going to use them for traffic enforcement. They want them to help with investigations of major crimes.

**I am not saying this is important. It seems mundane and pointless in fact. I simply had no idea that these cameras have gotten so ubiquitous. **

Your thoughts?

I always assume they’re everywhere. With the technology so cheap, why not? They can’t afford to monitor them, and I also expect they aren’t even going to be able to maintain them, but I would suspect they have the ability to find a specific license plate number, or even find cars that have obscured license plates, through the software. So, if a white sedan robs a bank two towns over with license plate 15H-GT5 pulls into town, they’ll be notified. Mostly, I suspect they are to provide evidence in traffic accidents.

This is how the nation as a whole becomes more and more a part of the surveilled world. One population center at a time.

24,000 people is in no way “a small town”.

Typical “nose of the camel.” What’s a crime worthy of using the cameras?

“Hey, you know, we can use our cameras to figure out when Bob Smith goes to his ex-wife’s house, since there’s a restraining order on him.”

“Well, why not use the cameras to figure out where he works, since he’s behind in child support.”

“And what’s the difference between doing that and using them to identify reckless drivers?”

“But we promised not to use them for traffic enforcement!”

“We meant ‘traffic enforcement’ to include things like speeding, but reckless driving is dangerous! It could lead to vehicular manslaughter!”

“Oh, OK. Get to work on that.”

I just assume that when I’m outside of my own house I’m on someone’s camera.

Hardly limited to small US towns:


I’m probably covered within 100 feet of travel down my forested dirt road. I don’t dare vandalize any asshole neighbors because surveillance. Where’s the fun then?

Ubiquitous surveillance… isn’t quite here yet. I foresee a Vernor Vinge world with dust-mite-size units floating about recording EVERYTHING and feeding Big Brother’s AIs as well as your VR goggles for psychedelic reinterpretation. And not only outdoors. Try to keep micro-spybots out of your house. I predict vendors of anti-spybot home protection systems with laser beams and more. But those will be hackable too. Bugger all…

My car’s Garmin GPS thingy can display known traffic cameras so I’m not worried about driving through Tennessee, even during a Scopes festival. I drive below the limit there anyway. Who know what may jump out in front of us?

I smell a grant. Or a federal program and federal money that the municipality can’t access without having the cameras. Alternatively, which decision maker for the municipality has a business or personal relationship with the guy selling the cameras?

IOW, I expect corruption is the driver here, and not any personal fondness to be Big Brother.

I have no idea where Mt. Juliet is. Is there a major interstate highway that goes through there? Might that be a way for the Feds to keep an eye on the smuggling of various contraband along that highway. (Note, my personal opinion is that governments shouldn’t be spending money on this; I’m just trying to think of their logic for wanting it.)

A few years ago, a friend pointed out to me an article about my home town (a bit smaller than this) was proposing to buy 2 dozen high-priced cameras for the main streets. He asked me for my reaction. I just said that “I hadn’t realized that the Chief of Police’s son’s electronics store was doing that badly”.

I don’t know anything about Mt. Juliet, TN. But I do know a bit about how small town politics go.

That’s how it read to me. Someone’s family member makes cameras and/or runs a service that will review camera feeds - for a fee. It seems like a town that size should likely have better uses for its money.

Just east of Nashville on I-40, and less than 15 minutes from the airport

There you go. I’ll bet the town’s RFP mentions funding from, or potential partners to be, some federal agency or other, ICE law enforcement fusion center, etc…

In the UK just about every main road and every motorway(freeway) is monitored by cameras and they are all linked.

Its called Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) and was originally supposed to be about dealing with traffic snarl ups.

However… they are also linked up to national databases so they can be interrogated to check on car insurance and roadworthiness certificates and can even be used to check if the registered owner of the vehicle is driving it - the latter takes a bit more work but it can be done.

The system can be interrogated to locate one specific vehicle and the journeys it has made.

The ANPR camera network is used extensively in criminal investigations and evidence obtained by then has proven critical in serious crimes such as murder - it works well when corroborates with cellphone data, and other parts of the electronic footprint such as tolls, contactless payments etc

We in the UK are incredibly heavily monitored - its likely to be your future, like it or not

This. The town I live near is a small town, population 1500. Our police force (one full time, one part time) had use of one of these cameras for a month. They caught a bunch of lapsed registrations, inspections, and drivers with no insurance. But the town couldn’t afford to keep the camera, so they returned it after the month.

I guess it depends on what you’re used to. I lived in Bristol VA/TN (combined pop >40K) for five years, and I considered it to be a small town.

Fresno used to have a few cameras at some especially busy intersections, but I think they got rid of them long ago. Modesto, likewise, a little more recently.

The common understanding was that the companies that provided and installed these cameras also operated them on-going, and their deal was they got a cut of all the fines from the tickets that arose from their cameras. I have been under the impression that this is a common arrangement where traffic cameras are installed.

Naturally, this was widely seen as some kind of racket. There were accusations that the cameras were fine-tuned to give more tickets rather than less. It came down to tenths-of-a-second timing, like how many tenths of a second a car might be past the limit line into a red light before getting a ticket. There were complaints that cars turning right on a red light were being ticketed.

Eventually the cities canceled their contracts with the camera company(s). I think the stated excuse was that they weren’t raking in enough dough for the cities.

I spent thanksgiving eve at a bar in nearby Salina, PA (population 174). When I told a local I lived near Apollo (population 1500) he called me a “city boy”. :slight_smile:

People should just start shooting them out.

I wish corruption in local politics in America were still limited to that sort of grassroots, Mayberry, awe shucks kind of corruption.

What I suspect is that there is a massive lobbying group representing a handful of major corporations that works over local communities nationwide. They point out to the local council or managing board how federal grant money earmarked for counter terrorism (or something) can be used to purchase surveillance equipment, what the max amount of money a given community is eligible for, and then provide them with the business card of one guy who will sell the equipment and another who will help them fill out the forms.

We’ve moved way past the days of cousin Joe Bob and the mayor’s son acting in cahoots to bilk the city out of a portion of the profits from the vendor booth sales at the county fair.