In a time where health officials are pushing social distancing due to the spread of COVID-19, One police department in Texas is prepared and leveraging technology to increase their efforts of unifying community members. Coastal Texas areas are no stranger to disruptive events. These officers recently faced Hurricane Harvey in 2017 where there was over 125 billion dollars in damage, 13 million people affected, and 135,000 homes nearly destroyed. What officers learned in the wake of this destruction and the strain it had on everyday life is still top of mind when it comes to navigating times of crisis.
Less than three years ago after the dust settled from Harvey, police and residents were stuck in isolation for over 2 weeks due to massive flooding and safety hazards littering the streets. Police leadership recognized the need to keep the lines of communication open because it was absolutely critical for the public to know what was happening and how to deal with life in their unique situation. By learning and adapting from the natural disaster and coming out stronger as a community, this agency made a playbook on how to handle these types of unfortunate events. Now, unfortunately, they’re having to tap into that again with the outbreak of COVID-19.
Officers started with creating an email newsletter updating the general public nearly everyday with how the police department is staffed, what resources are being used, and how successful they have been in responding to calls for service to citizens, traffic enforcement and police procedures being used for the coming days. Also in that newsletter is a high-risk registry portal where their residents can click on their unique links to update their profile, special needs, and file sick/ill reports or special visits. This is the department’s way of keeping in touch and easing the fears of residents.
The Officer that Never Sleeps
Unfortunately, crime doesn't shut down in the time of disaster. The United Nations found from data recorded by police in 15 countries that “[d]uring periods of economic stress, the incidence of robbery may double, and homicide and motor vehicle theft also increase”. In a time when resources are spread thin and officers cannot be in the field as much as usual, technology is critical to having eyes on the street for protection. One piece of technology that works 24/7 for this Texas agency sees like a detective and is called the Flock Safety license plate reading camera. It’s a system that never gets tired, never needs time off, and never gets sick which makes sure this police agency never misses a step.
Social Distancing Doesn't Stop Success
Just a few days ago, a Flock Safety fixed license plate reading camera alerted officers of a stolen vehicle entering the city just before 1 A.M. Officers were quickly deployed to the area and were able to find the suspected stolen truck. Upon arriving on the scene, an officer was able to pull over the vehicle and detained the occupants. The investigation really took off when officers found many stolen articles within the vehicle. The evidence gathered lead investigators to believe the suspects have been repeatedly stealing from residents in and around the city. Mail theft, a federal crime, is taken very seriously by this agency.
- Stolen mail
- Hundreds of checks
- Over fifty stolen credit cards
- Fake titles and registrations
- Mailbox keys
- Dozens of vehicle key fobs
- Counterfeit money
- A police scanner
- Fake Postal Inspector credentials
Once the suspects were arrested, they were booked for actively stealing mail, committing identity theft and fraud. Without their Flock Safety camera system, the stolen vehicle may never have been seen. Vehicle hotlist alerts activated by license plate footage help make sure culprits don’t have the opportunity to drive by unnoticed.
Even in times of stress and adapting to the pandemic spread of COVID-19, this successful arrest shows that technology like Flock Safety license plate readers and other tools can be the difference maker to help keep crime at a minimum.