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Houston Suburb Adds License Plate Cameras to Parks

The move by League City follows an increase in vehicle break-ins with 28 license plate-reading cameras. Police have also begun a grant program letting subdivisions and homeowner associations apply to place cameras in their neighborhoods.

A Flock Safety License Plate Recognition System camera
(TNS) — League City is adding more license plate-reading surveillance cameras with a focus on parks, where police say they have seen an increase in vehicle break-ins.

At the end of February, crews started installing 28 license plate reading cameras approved by the city council last December, with plans in place to expand the program further into the community and neighborhoods, according to League City Police Department Captain Harold Lee.

The city completed the first installment of 42 cameras in 2023, and with latest additions placed at roadways and parks, the city will have a total of 70 Flock cameras, which take pictures of license plates on roadways.

The police department has also begun a Neighborhood Flock Camera Program approved by council through a grant program that will allow the use of cameras by HOAs and subdivisions that go through an application process.

The cameras installed by the city let police know if, for instance, somebody enters the city in a stolen car, and the cameras placed at HOAs will help police narrow their search.

“We will know which area of the city they’re in,” Lee said.

Lee said the city is hoping to install up to 25 more cameras through the program, although the total number and costs are not finalized.


The cameras have also helped police solve two missing person cases, according to Lee.

Lee cites one example of a family scheduled to depart from Galveston in a cruise ship. On the morning the family was set to board the ship, the family’s grandmother didn’t show up, and the family couldn’t reach her and reported her missing, Lee said.

Police got the license plate from the woman’s family and ran it through the police camera database and found that the grandmother’s car had been documented by one of the cameras, according to Lee.

The camera was able to identify a location where the vehicle had been several hours earlier, and police subsequently tracked down the vehicle with the woman inside in a parking lot of a retail store.

“She was in the car but extremely disoriented, and very obviously in the midst of a medical emergency, and so officers took her to the hospital,” Lee said.

The woman was treated for a stroke and has since recovered, said Lee.

“I was happy to see that,” he said. “Obviously the crime-fighting aspect is very important to us but also the fact that we are protecting people in other ways.”


The use of Flock camera systems has raised concerns about how they could potentially infringe on citizens’ right to privacy.

Savannah Kumar, attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said in a prior Houston Chronicle report that people should be cautious with the implementation or expansion of license plate reading systems, and to consider how long the data is retained and where it's shared by law enforcement.

Referring to Houston’s use of Flock cameras, Kumar said the ACLU believes a large network of surveillance cameras makes it possible “to tell where people are in the city, where they’re going, who they’re seeing such as which religious centers or health care clinics they’re going to and when they’re going to the places. And all that data collected together is a massive privacy violation for people in Houston.”

The ACLU doesn’t object to all license plate readers and acknowledges their usefulness in finding stolen vehicles, aiding Amber Alerts and collecting tolls.

According to Lee, the purpose of the cameras is not to monitor people’s everyday activity and that any non-criminal related data captured on the cameras automatically deletes after 30 days.

Why more Flock cameras?

“We noticed that the (42) cameras we had installed originally were working very well,” said Lee. “We were seeing great results and that was a large factor.”

Additionally, the price of the cameras was projected to increase, and the department wanted to get ahead of that cost increase, Lee said.

Cost: Each camera costs $2,500 for each camera per year.


The cameras will be installed at Hometown Heroes Park, Lynn Gripon Park at Countryside, the Chester L. Davis Sportsplex, Lobit Park, and the Dr. Ned and Fay Dudney Nature Center.


The automated cameras are designed to read and photograph the license plates of vehicles leaving an area where a crime has been reported or suspected.

The cameras have aided police in identifying various types of crimes, including motor vehicle thefts, aggravated assault, burglary, carjacking, identity theft and even two missing persons incidences, according to Lee.

The following is based on data collected by League City police in 2023 directly attributed to the Flock camera surveillance system.

Arrests: 25 by League City police, 4 by Webster police and 1 by Houston police

Stolen vehicles: 15

Stolen guns: 3

Stolen license plates: 2

Stolen trailers: 2

©2024 the Houston Chronicle, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.