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License plate recognition cameras to be placed in Jersey Village

December 28, 2018

Jersey Village Police Department will have an easier time catching suspects in vehicles in the near future.

During the Dec. 17 general meeting, Jersey Village City Council approved the addition of automatic license plate recognition cameras to the tools used by police officers in the city. Council approved $312,000 to contract with Flock Safety - a safety security camera company - to provide and maintain the cameras.

The cameras will be placed in stationary locations around the city - similar to traffic cameras - and use optical character recognition software, or OCR, to see the characters on license plates, said Jersey Village Police Chief Eric Foerster. Initially, 48 cameras will be active, but he said cameras can be moved, added, or subtracted at any time.

“Say we have a burglary in your neighborhood,” Foerster said. “We can literally, within minutes, run every license plate that came through your neighborhood that day. We’ll be able to eliminate your friends and neighbors (as suspects) within minutes whereas before we couldn’t do that.”

Foerster said the cameras use solar technology and smaller batteries as well as wireless LTE connectivity to keep the cameras portable and storing data. Cameras can read, record and store license plates in their system.

“We also have a fair number of child custody within our village where we have non-parental custodial issues,” Foerster said. “We can enter their license plate and it tells us when they’re in the city. People suspected of crimes, we can put their license plate in there. It tells us when they’re in the city. It lets us know when stolen cars are within the city.”

Foerster and several council members said the license plate cameras were discussed in the past, but were not pursued because the cost exceeded $1 million.

Now that the cost of the cameras, installation, maintenance, warranty and wireless connectivity for three years is $312,000, Foerster believes the project is overall cost effective.

Foerster said other cities nearby have been implementing automatic license plate recognition cameras, but that they are not completely mainstream in the present. The cameras will be used to point officers in the right direction, rather than relying on the cameras.

“If we’re relying on that for our probable cause then we’re in bad shape already,” Foerster said after council member Gary Holden asked about the viability of using the camera for court processes.

During the same meeting, the Jersey Village City Council authorized funding for the building renovations for the police department and an interlocal agreement between the city and Harris County, allowing Jersey Village to transfer prisoners to the county’s jail for long-term confinement.

chevall.pryce@chron.com

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