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Austin City Council approves resolutions on license plate readers

An automated license plate reader is a camera that snaps a photo of every vehicle passing by, along with a timestamp.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Austin City Council on Thursday voted to approve two items related to the use of automated license plate readers (ALPRs).

An ALPR is a camera that snaps a photo of every vehicle passing by, along with a timestamp. It then pings police when a license plate is involved in certain investigations, like a missing person case or a crime that's at least a Class A misdemeanor.

On Thursday, the council approved two items related to ALPRs. The first, Item 74, would "authorize negotiation and execution of a contract for license plate reader camera systems and services with Insight Public Sector, Inc., for up to five years for a total contract amount not to exceed $1,090,000."

The council also approved Item 85, which approves a resolution amending a previous resolution "to revise policy for data retention related to automated license plate readers and extend the timeline of the pilot program."

Austin Police Department officials have said ALPRs would pick up some of the burdens of the police department's staffing shortage. 

"It's absolutely a force multiplier," Assistant Police Chief Jeff Greenwalt said of the cameras. "ALPR systems help us solve crimes quicker."

"We're not using it for Class C tickets and warrant roundups and that sort of thing," Greenwalt continued. "But [if] there's a misdemeanor crime such as theft or an assault or graffiti or something like that, it is possible, if somebody has a warrant out for their arrest, that we might use the system to help find them."

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