More intersection license plate readers coming to Johnson County — What they’re for

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Johnson County has approved an agreement allowing license plate readers to be installed at intersections throughout the county.

Driving the news: The Johnson County Board of County Commissioners on Thursday approved a $595,000 agreement with Merriam-based Electronic Technology Inc. for the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office to utilize up to 55 automated license plate readers at certain intersections.

  • Funding for the plate reader installation comes from the 2022 COPS Technology and Equipment Program, a federal grant program that awarded the Sheriff’s Office at the end of September.
  • At this time, the county has not confirmed where all of the license plate readers will be installed.

How they work: ALPR cameras are high-speed camera systems typically used along roadways.

  • The readers capture thumbnail photographs of the license plates on vehicles passing in front of them, similarly to the systems that are used at toll road entrances and exits.
  • Earlier this fall, the city of Mission Hills installed similar license plate readers at five intersections across the city.

What they’re for: David Stutheit, chief security officer for the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, said the sheriff’s office would use the cameras for criminal investigations — such as ongoing abductions — instead of traffic enforcement.

  • The data gathered from the license plate readers would be stored for a maximum of two years.
  • The Sheriff’s Office already operates five license plate readers: four along the perimeter of the Johnson County Courthouse and one at the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office.
  • The data from those readers are stored on a server in the basement of the Johnson County Courthouse in Olathe.
License plate readers Johnson County
Above, a stoplight at an intersection by the Johnson County Courthouse in Olathe. Photo by Lucie Krisman.

Key quote: “Kansas City, Missouri, is kind of the model we’ve built off of,” Stutheit said. “They have inventory of over 500 license plate readers, and they’ve seen a significant drop, especially in homicide investigations, from the time the offense occurs to when it gets on the district attorney’s desk.”

Bigger picture: This agreement comes as the latest board-approved change at the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office. 

  • The board recently approval a deputy pay raise for Sheriff’s Office deputies at the end of September, which raised the minimum salary from $49,939 to $57,200. 

Where the board landed

While board commissioners agreed that the license plate readers were a valuable law enforcement tool, some of them expressed concerns about what they could mean for the privacy of Johnson Countians.

  • “I do think we have an obligation to ensure that residents and anyone who might be picked up on this reader are assured that their data is secure and that it is not available to just anybody,” said Commissioner Janée Hanzlick.
  • Commission Chair Ed Eilert voiced support for the measure, calling it an important step for Johnson County’s criminal justice system.
  • “I think the bottom line is that this provides important information in our criminal justice investigations and it’s an important part of that criminal justice process,” Eilert said. “That’s important to our cities, and that’s important to the county.”

About the author

Lucie Krisman
Lucie Krisman

Hi! I’m Lucie Krisman, and I cover local business for the Johnson County Post.

I’m a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, but have been living in Kansas since I moved here to attend KU, where I earned my degree in journalism. Prior to joining the Post, I did work for The Pitch, the Eudora Times, the North Dakota Newspaper Association and KTUL in Tulsa.