Automatic License Plate Readers Advance at West U and Bellaire

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Bellaire Mayor Andrew Friedberg recently announced that the city is moving forward with its automated license plate reader project, which was first installed in January 2021 as a pilot program.

Friedberg said the original 10 LPRs are now funded from the police department’s budget on an ongoing basis and the city is acquiring 10 additional units as part of a Phase 2 pilot project, supported by a grant from the Bellaire Police and Fire Foundation. LPRs have an annual cost of $27,500.

According to Friedberg, the first 10 LPRs reported 996 hits on wanted vehicles, of which the Bellaire Police Department apprehended 452 of the vehicles. The arrests led to the recovery of 66 stolen vehicles.

“Of course, crimes potentially averted by these arrests and by the deterrent effect of cameras in general are not included in these statistics,” Friedberg wrote in a blog post.

LPRs work through motion-activated cameras that photograph every license plate that passes in front of them. The cameras will then automatically compare this data to a database of vehicles and alert the service of any hotlist license plates, such as suspect vehicles or wanted vehicles in AMBER alerts.

The data is stored on a server for 30 days and in the meantime authorized users within BPD will be able to access the stored data if the data is relevant to an ongoing investigation. The camera also captures the make, model and color of vehicles while using artificial intelligence to create a searchable database for use in investigations, BPD explained at a city council meeting in 2021.

“LPRs have also been helpful in locating wanted vehicles in connection with crimes that have been reported in Bellaire,” Friedberg wrote in his recent blog post. “Where witnesses provide only generic descriptions, such as ‘a late-model white sedan,’ for example, officers can use this information to search the database for all matching vehicles that were recovered by one LPRs at the time of the breach. ”

“The department credits the cameras with helping to increase case close rates and improve efficiency by automating what is otherwise a cumbersome manual process of pursuing such leads in an investigation,” Friedberg wrote.

Bellaire Police Chief Onesimo Lopez, who was deputy police chief at the time of the 2021 LPR public meeting, explained that it is also possible to obtain other objects that are in the field. camera view.

“They could also record footage of pedestrians, cyclists, and larger animals,” Lopez said. “That’s not the purpose of the camera system, that’s not what it’s supposed to do, but that information would be collected.”

This information could also include people likely to run from a store on foot, if they run in front of the cameras, Lopez said. There is also the problem of accidental recording of non-criminal activity.

According to Friedberg, the plan for the next 10 LPRs is to install seven of them at “strategic locations not yet covered”, and the other three will be mobile for use in surveys and for traffic counts as part of of the city’s traffic management program.

“We have no obligations with regards to the second set of ALPR after the Phase 2 pilot, and will just wait to see how things go before making that decision,” Friedberg wrote.

The city of West University Place has a similar license plate reader system called Virtual Gate that has an accuracy rate of 97.2%, according to the West U Police Department.

WUPD says that in the spring of 2022, all entry and exit points in and around West U will be monitored by the Virtual Gate. The West U project will be completed with an estimated cost of $4.5 million.

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