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License plate readers up and running in Shenandoah

August 10, 2018

Life for criminals on the run or other scofflaws just got a lot harder for those traveling through Shenandoah.

Several of the city’s long-awaited automatic license plate readers, or ALPRs, are fully operational, Police Chief Raymond Shaw said. The three mobile and two fixed camera systems from Italy-based ELSAG, a company that produces readers for law enforcement agencies internationally, were installed between early July and last week.

“It’s a proactive program,” Shaw said. “Our main goal is to keep the community safe.”

From their perches in Shenandoah and atop city police cars, the license plate readers will relay information to and crosscheck with the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program, also known as HIDTA.

The HIDTA program is an arm of the Drug Enforcement Agency and was created by Congress in 1988. The program operates in 49 states. The information in the database is shared with several area law enforcement agencies including the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, the Cleveland Police Department and the Houston Police Department, as well as a long list of federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, ICE and other agencies.

Shaw said that in Shenandoah specifically, the information will be used to track down stolen cars, locate sex offenders’ cars and cars involved in silver and Amber alerts.

“If it’s something that’s really important, then you can get that information,” Shaw said. “Hopefully we’ll catch them on the way in.”

HIDTA information is shared with the Drug Enforcement Agency, the FBI, the U.S. Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Several communities across the country, ALPRs have come under scrutiny for the potential for the information gathered from them to end up in the hands of officials from ICE.

As of right now, Shaw said, Shenandoah doesn’t have an issue with undocumented immigrants inside city limits. The two fixed ALPRs will be located on the corner of Shenandoah and Savannah Drives and Tuscany Woods Drive and Wellman Road. Three units will be mounted in police cruisers that patrol the city.

mrincon@chron.com

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