Big Brother is watching in Sugar Land

August 3, 2009 4:31:18 PM PDT
There is now high-tech help for police officers tracking down stolen vehicles and people with warrants. Cameras on patrol cars are now constantly recording and scanning license plates and police in Sugar Land are not stopping there. Sugar Land Police Officer Henry Torres may not look like it, but he has eyes in the back of his head.

"It's a greater advantage for us to be proactive on the streets," said Officer Torres.

These are those eyes. Three cameras constantly recording license plates and their locations as Officer Torres drives patrol.

"They scan for reflective material so they scan every license plate that passes you by and as you see on the display, it takes a picture of the vehicle the front and the rear," Officer Torres said.

When they get a hit off a database of "hot cars," an alarm goes off.

Sugar Land has the cameras on four cars right now with money for a fifth of the $25,000 systems, and plans to put them on all 37 of its patrol cars.

"The system can look for a Texas plate. It can also look for anything from any of the other 50 states," said Cory Becker of the Sugar Land Police Department. "The cameras are capable of running 3,600 plates per minute."

Sugar Land Police say they are not stopping with the mobile cameras. Within the next weeks and months, they're also going to be adding several stationary cameras at intersections throughout the city.

All of the cameras right now are in a prolonged testing phase. Written policies for how to best use the cameras are still being developed, but in Houston a similar system helps Officer Randy Crowder, Jr. find stolen vehicles at an alarming pace.

"We're getting thefts all the time now," said Officer Randy Crowder, Jr. "I probably find five to ten in a week of recovered stolen vehicles that are dumped."

While we rode with him, the cameras found a car tied to warrants.

"There are warrants listed on that vehicle," said Officer Crowder.

This is the age in which we live, with cameras on cars.

"There's always going to be some people that are going to believe it's Big Brother watching," said Becker.

The police have eyes in the backs of their heads.

In Sugar Land, they store the plates and locations for six months if there's a hit for a stolen vehicle or warrant. All of the others are saved for 30 days and deleted.

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