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Can noise cameras cut down on loud vehicles?

Traffic moves along a California freeway.
Jae C. Hong
Traffic moves along a California freeway.

Some people call them macho mufflers, automobiles rigged to make a lot of noise. Now cities across Virginia want to deploy noise cameras, which can detect vehicles with illegally loud exhaust systems.

Senator Adam Ebbin says he like the idea of allowing local governments to use this technology.

"If there's a way that police can easily detect people who are interfering with quality of life in a community by intentionally zooping up their mufflers, I would tend to look favorably on that," Ebbin says.

But not everyone would look favorably on that.

"We don't know if it is simply looking for loud stereos and loud mufflers or if it can record somebody's conversations going down the road," says Shawn Weneta at the Virginia ACLU. "We don't know who is going to have access to the data that is collected. We don't know if it is going to be sold to third parties or circulated around to other law-enforcement agencies."

Because Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, local governments would need to get permission from the General Assembly before using noise cameras. So it's an issue lawmakers are likely to consider when the General Assembly session starts next month.

 This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.