Former council member expresses concern over license plate readers

By George Slaughter, News Editor
Posted 2/2/22

A former Katy City Council member cautioned against possible abuse of the new license plate reader technology that the city has purchased.

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Former council member expresses concern over license plate readers

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A former Katy City Council member cautioned against possible abuse of the new license plate reader technology that the city has purchased.

While Hill Adams agreed that the technology can be useful for police to catch criminals, he said future city leaders might alter the original intent behind purchasing the technology.

“I’m not a big fan of that kind of stuff,” Adams said. “It encroaches and always grows into something more intrusive than the people who voted on it envisioned.”

Adams was a council member form 2002-08, representing Ward A. He said he attended the Jan. 24 meeting to say hello to Mayor Bill Hastings, who was returning to work after dealing with COVID-19. Adams said had he been on the council he would have voted no on the proposal.

“I didn’t know hardly anything about it when it went to the council,” Adams said. “Maybe I would have done due diligence before the meeting, and made sure there were checks and balances in the contract.”

Police Chief Noe Diaz said the city does not store the data and Safe Fleet destroys the data after 30 days.

Diaz said efforts are underway to install plate readers throughout Harris County, along with Fulshear and the La Centerra business district. Austin and San Antonio use the readers as well, he said.

“It’s not just a city thing,” Diaz said. “It’s a tool that’s able to give us unbiased investigative information.”

Diaz shared a case in which a woman was robbed in a parking lot about two weeks ago. But the robber’s license plate was identified, he said, and this week the robber was found in the same parking lot, armed and presumably looking for his next victim. Police arrested him.

The council last month authorized the purchase of 10 additional license plate readers without debate. City Administrator Byron Hebert said the readers have been helpful to the city. Both Ward A Council Member Dan Smith and Ward B Council Member Rory Robertson spoke in favor of the additional readers at the meeting.

“It stops crimes and makes our community safer,” Robertson said.

In a memo to council urging the purchase, Diaz said the readers enable the department to share information with neighboring cities and counties. Diaz told the council that the department last year solved hundreds of cases with the help of the readers.

The council first approved the purchase of 23 readers, at the police department’s request, in January 2020. The readers have been placed in various spots around the city. Diaz said the new readers would be placed in areas where police have seen an increase in crime. He said the readers will enable police to reduce the crime happening in those areas of town.

The units cost $2,500 each, and there is a $2,500 initiation fee for these units.

Diaz said Tuesday that the new readers have not been received by the city yet.

“We don’t want to hide them,” Diaz said. “We want the community know where they are.”