Wednesday, July 17, 2024

City Council approves 22 license plate cameras for Granbury police

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After five cameras that photograph license plates were placed at three locations in late August as part of a 60-day “demo,” the cameras aided the Granbury Police Department in recovering stolen vehicles and lost property, locating a missing man (who, as it turned out, merely wanted a break from his family), and led to arrests in an aggravated robbery and the vandalization of an ATM.

If all that was accomplished with just five test cameras, imagine what having 22 permanent cameras may do. Probably a lot.

The City Council formally approved the placement of additional License Plate Reader, or LPR, cameras during its regular meeting Tuesday night. The vote was merely a formality, though. The cost of the cameras was part of the 2022-2023 Fiscal Year Budget that the council approved last September.

The Falcon Flex cameras from Flock Group Inc. will cost $61,725 for the first year with a recurring annual fee of $55,000.

The equipment captures license plate numbers in low light, nighttime conditions, and in sunlight so bright that license plates might be unreadable by other types of cameras. Images are taken from the rear, according to City Manager Chris Coffman. They do not include windshields and passengers.

The cameras scan the license plates of vehicles passing through intersections and run them through a database that alerts the police department if a vehicle has been reported stolen, involved in a crime, or is the subject of a search. Officers can then begin scouring the area for that vehicle.

The five test cameras were placed at three intersections by the Texas Department of Transportation. Since the cameras are spread apart, officers had to guess what directions the vehicles traveled once they passed through those intersections, Police Chief Mitch Galvan said. The additional cameras, which will bring the total to 22, will help solve that problem.

“Once we get the remainder of the cameras put up in the locations that we’re wanting them, we’ll be able to really zero in on a location of a vehicle that comes through,” he stated.

As to where the cameras will be placed, Galvan isn’t saying.

“We’re not going to share locations,” he said. “That just makes it easy for somebody to come destroy them, do something to vandalize them, or whatever.”

Galvan called the cameras “a huge investigative tool” and said that agencies that use the camera system are able to assist each other in searches. That’s how the “missing” Granbury man was located in Dallas and found to not actually be missing at all.

The chief said that his department “can’t wait” for the additional cameras to be placed.

Galvan noted that the police department will create an online “transparency portal” to provide data pertaining to the department’s usage of the cameras as well as information about what officers legally can and cannot do with the surveillance tool.