Houston city council OKs $178K to expand HPD's surveillance network

Jessica Willey Image
Thursday, June 13, 2024
Houston OKs $178K crime-fighting AI tech, but concerns raised
Airship AI Holdings will provide the Houston Police Department with a 64-camera network that would execute facial recognition technology.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The Houston Police Department clarified an ABC13 report a day after the city council approved a $178,000 deal to support a network of crime-fighting surveillance cameras.

On Wednesday, the city council OK'd a one-year agreement between police and Airship AI Holdings, Inc. The deal includes server space expansion for the department's 64-camera network, which is already in use.

HPD also clarified that the server space is for cameras in investigations such as illegal dumping and stolen vehicles. Police are not purchasing new cameras, but they also didn't say if they were putting up new ones.

Despite the deal with a company with "AI" in its name, police claim the cameras are standard surveillance equipment with no artificial intelligence component, including facial recognition.

Overall concerns with AI

Even though the police insist the system lacks AI, its integration into surveillance overall is still concerning to experts and community members.

"I'm all for less crime, but privacy is very important and should be maintained," John Zandi told ABC13.

Texas Southern University professor and former city council member Carroll Robinson predicts problems.

"Some innocent person, misidentified, not by a real-life person but by a camera, ends up in the criminal justice system, incarcerated at the county jail," he said.

Robinson and his colleague, Dr. Michael O. Adams, have called for state legislation to protect against racial discrimination using AI.

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SEE ALSO: $700K for license plate readers are a 'game changer,' acting HPD chief says as budget goes to a vote

The city council is expected to vote for the proposed $6.7 billion and some of it will be allotted to the Houston Police Department's new technology.