By George Boehme
The bad news: West University’s plan to become a virtual gated community with cameras and license plate readers on poles at every entrance/exit to the city is 90 days behind schedule.
The good news: The first phase of the ambitious $4.5 million plan should go out to bid within days, a bid awarded by March — with construction covering major intersections starting in the spring.
“This is a marquee project for the city, so it’s exciting to see it come to fruition,” Mayor Susan Sample said.
City Manager Chris Peifer says the project “leverages advances in technology to maximize the ongoing professional services of our law enforcement staff.”
Truth is that the virtual gate is as much a response to West U’s (and other smaller cities’, including Bellaire’s) challenge to stay competitive in hiring and retaining qualified police officers as it is about crime itself. Police Chief Ken Walker has been behind the proposal, saying it makes more sense to make an investment in this now-proven technology than in personnel.
But the growing number of criminals passing through West U is a major justification. The technology is so advanced that it can read a license plate number, run it through databases, and alert West U police dispatch if it is a suspicious vehicle that might be stolen or wanted in a crime.
The project is expected to take four years to complete. This first phase, coming in at $2,335,000, will cover 79 lanes of traffic with a combination of electrical and communications infrastructure and wide area surveillance cameras.
Phase 2, projected to cost $2,155,000, will cover another 53 vehicle lanes at location locations.
Featured in Essentials Magazine/Public Safety, January 2019