Memorial Villages Police Department - Houston Texas
Serving the cities of Bunker Hill, Piney Point, and Hunters Creek in Houston, Texas


How It Could Be Used

This camera concept is being used by many other cities throughout the country. A survey by the Rand Corporation concluded that in 2007 19% of police departments in the United States were using license plate readers. This increased to 70% in 2012, and is expected to reach 85% this year. This continued increase in percentage of police departments using cameras is believed to be directly related to the overall success rates of these systems.

Locally, cameras have been in use by the Houston police since 2007. The Texas Highway Department uses cameras on our highways and tollways, which includes EZTag. The City of Sugarland installed cameras in one area of town as a trial, which proved so successful, they are discussing how to significantly expand their usage. This year, West University is studying camera systems for their city.

The cameras first serve as a crime deterrent. If criminals know that cameras are in place, they may be less likely to commit crimes in that area. The system also serves as a reactive analysis and investigation tool. The concept works like this. A crime occurs. A witness or video surveillance provides a vechicle description. A police officer authorized to access the system searches the database for the suspect vehicle and obtains the license plat number. License plate readers can be used to flag various concerns such as no license plate or covered plate. When linked to databases these readers can be used to flag additional concerns such as stolen vehicles, amber alerts and sex offenders.

The primary objective of the proposed Virtual Gateway system is to provide evidence and alerting capabilities along the perimeter of the city such that residential households cannot be accessed by vehicle without that vehicle being documented. Documentation of the vehicles includes a high definition color image, an infrared image of the vehicle license plate, and license plate data associated with the characters and numbers. The vehicle’s location and time of day are also documented.

The license plate database can be queried by Memorial Villages Police for criminal investigations. Software and firmware upgrades to automated license plate recognition (ALPR) camera technologies enable the systems to search for vehicles by make, model, color, and other variables. Criminals may adapt to ALPR deployments by concealing their license plate, or putting a paper plate on their vehicle. However, modern video surveillance analytics upgrades to the ALPR systems enable the detection of vehicles even when a license plate is not visible or present. Therefore, a system installed today is assumed to have the capability to upgrade software and/or firmware for these additional security features.

Piney Point Village’s western and eastern city boundaries are adjacent to Bunker Hill Village and Hunters Creek Village. As a result of teaming together, the Virtual Gateway system concept ensures that these city boundaries cannot be accessed by vehicle without having previously passed through the ALPR system. In other words, the three separate cities can instead be visualized as a single secured area, sharing a common perimeter.