The installation of the first phase of West University Place's camera monitoring system will be completed by the second quarter of this year—a few months behind the original schedule—but the second phase could be approved as early as next month.

The camera system, known as Virtual Gate, uses license-plate readers and live-feed cameras to cover all lanes of traffic and alert police of stolen vehicles, vehicles associated with Amber or Silver alerts, or vehicles registered to individuals with a record of violent crimes.

The system remains in the first of two phases as the city of West University Place works with the city of Houston to get approval on permits for eight more entrances into the city. Phase 1 was originally estimated to be completed by December 2020.

“Houston has been very helpful,” Police Chief Ken Walker told West University Place City Council during a March 22 report.

The two phases of the project have been budgeted at a total cost of $4.5 million, which is being paid through a certificate of obligation bond to be paid back by the city over the next 15 years.

Phase 1 calls for 15 intersections with cameras. So far, the city has installed 12 live-feed cameras and 25 license-plate readers at seven entrances into the city, including at Bissonnet Street and Buffalo Speedway and at West Holcombe Boulevard and Brompton Road. Once the contractor, Minuteman Security Technologies, has installed the equipment at the remaining Phase 1 locations, the city will have 28 live-feed cameras and 76 plate readers.

Although Phase 1 has yet to be completed, the city can still proceed with Phase 2, which includes an additional 25 locations. City Council will have the option to vote April 12 to proceed with the second phase, estimated at a cost of $1.9 million, which is $255,000 under budget.

Should council opt to push forward with the project, permitting and construction of the new equipment would run from May to November.

The Phase 1 system has been functioning as expected, Walker told council. In a one-hour period March 16, the license-plate readers recorded 499 license plates with a 97% accuracy rate.

Video recorded by the live-feed cameras that are part of the Virtual Gate system is kept for no longer than 90 days unless it becomes part of a criminal proceeding, Walker said.