WILLIAMSON COUNTY, TEXAS (KXAN) — Williamson County is planning to install 25 license-plate reading cameras across the county to help fight and solve crimes.
County commissioners approved an agreement for a Flock camera pilot program Tuesday in a unanimous vote. The Sheriff’s Office has not said a date when it will install the cameras and begin the 12-month pilot program.
Sheriff Mike Gleason said 25 Flock cameras will be provided for free in the pilot to determine the efficacy of license plate reader technology.
If the county decides to continue in the program then the $2,500 per camera cost plus installation fees would be incurred for about $68,000. Commissioners would need to then approve continuing the program through a procurement process.
Cameras capture rear license plates and not faces or profiles, Gleason said. The county already has data collectors mounted on telephone poles to track speeds and car counts, but they do not collect images. Flock camera data is stored for 30 days, according to the agreement.
“It basically just provides us leads that we otherwise would not have to further the investigation,” Gleason said.
Williamson County Lieutenant Russell Travis said the goal of the program is to fight and solve crime. He said there are rashes of car burglaries, and Ring Doorbell footage provides little information. But the Flock cameras could, for example, connect burglaries across several neighborhoods based on license plates that appear in the same areas.
Camera sites can be moved, Gleason said. For example, if there is a large crime spike in an area, the cameras can be moved to another location.
Flock cameras are available to non-law enforcement entities like cities, MUDs and neighborhoods. Gleason said he may recommend that communities participate in a pilot program if there is a spike or trend in crimes such as vehicle thefts. But the data is only shared with law enforcement agencies to prevent neighbors from collecting data on one another.
Round Rock Police began a 60-day pilot program with Flock in April. RRPD spokesperson Nick Olivier said there are 30 cameras in the pilot that will end in June.
Two other Central Texas cities are also beginning camera surveillance programs soon. Pflugerville Police will add 28 cameras over the next six weeks in high traffic and retail areas. The city of Bee Cave will add license plate readers in the Hill Country Galleria in the next few weeks.
The cities or police departments of Cedar Park, Georgetown, Hutto, Leander and Taylor told KXAN there are no current license plate reader cameras in their cities.