Mayor Turner, Houston Police seek $8.5 million toward citywide video surveillance

Houston is seeking private contributions towards a video surveillance system that will also allow residents with Ring cameras to opt into sharing footage with police. (Courtesy Pexel)
Houston is seeking private contributions towards a video surveillance system that will also allow residents with Ring cameras to opt into sharing footage with police. (Courtesy Pexel)

Houston is seeking private contributions towards a video surveillance system that will also allow residents with Ring cameras to opt into sharing footage with police. (Courtesy Pexel)

Apprehending violent criminals in Houston requires more “eyes on the street,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said at a joint press conference with the Houston Police Department.

That may not come as much from added boots-on-the-ground police presence as it will come from a virtual network of surveillance technology, Turner said.

"We need to have more real eyes on the streets,” Turner said. “But it’s going to require supplemental technology to what we have already.”

To do so, Turner announced the city is seeking $8.5 million in private investment towards a citywide camera system and technology that will allow the city to work with Ring, a home surveillance camera service owned by Amazon. Under an agreement with Ring, owners of the cameras, typically placed on street-facing doorbells, will be able to opt into sharing footage with Houston Police Department, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said.

As of 2017, Houston Police was signifcantly understaffed when compared to other similar-sized cities, an indepedent performance audit of the city found. However, between 2008 and 2018, the city's violent crime rate fell by 4.8% according to FBI data. The number of violent crimes reported has fluctuated in recent months, Acevedo said when describing the need for the video network.


Other area cities have recently made similar investments. West University Place is implementing a $4.5 million “Virtual Gate” system of cameras and license plate readers, and in January, Katy said it would put in place 22 license plate readers.

This is not the first time that Turner has called on the philanthropic and business communities to supplement the city’s budgetary needs. Last year, he announced the 50 for 50 parks initiative aiming to form partnerships between businesses and local parks. In January, he called for $50 million in donations toward homelessness initiatives

Also among Turner’s commitments were a $1.5 million in added overtime pay to increase police presence city wide with a focus on “hot spots,” as well as an ongoing agreement to test out a gun violence monitoring system known as ShotSpotter. Turner deployed the same amount of overtime pay to police in August.

ShotSpotter records sounds of gunfire, pinpoints its location and reports information straight to police. It is currently being tested in a five-mile radius pilot zone in an unspecified area of south Houston.

Acevedo said when combined with community involvement, these initiatives will help curb violent crime rates which he said are fluctuating in the city.
By Emma Whalen
Emma is Community Impact Newspaper's Houston City Hall reporter. Previously, she covered public health, education and features for several Austin-area publications. A Boston native, she is a former student athlete and alumna of The University of Texas at Austin.


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