Traffic cameras scan license plates to catch stolen vehicles

Memorial Villages police call it an invisible line of defense. It's a watchful eye keeping tabs on any unwanted visitors entering the neighborhood.

"Most of our criminals come from somewhere else. They come here to break into houses or break into cars," Assistant Chief Ray Schultz said.

The department is looking at a new program that would take crime fighting to specific intersections. Cameras could soon be posted around the three villages they patrol: Bunker Hill, Piney Point and Hunter's Creek.

"It grabs the image of the license plate and checks it in the database to see if the vehicle comes back stolen or wanted," Schultz said.

It's similar to the system Sugar Land has been testing since September 2015.

The camera's job is to deter crime and help solve crime. The cameras can help link the license plate of a suspect vehicle to the person responsible. ​

Sugar Land has had some success with the program, documenting a return of about 20 stolen vehicles every three months, and finding suspects wanted in a robbery, home invasion and even an animal abuse case. ​

"I assume that they have some data behind it to show that it's effective either in preventing crime or reducing crime," resident Paul Riddle said.

Schultz says the license plate data would be stored for up to 30 days and would only be accessed if there's a criminal investigation. 

Residents say what can it hurt?

"I think it will give more people some peace of mind, and we've had incidents in that neighborhood that if we had their license plates, that would've helped," Dayna Beardsley said.

Police say it could also help with Amber Alerts and could cost anywhere from $1.8 million to $3.3 million.