Frequently Asked Questions

Automated License Plate Recognition Technology (ALPR)

What is ALPR Technology?

ALPR cameras are like security cameras but are only photographing cars and license plates. This is a useful investigative tool in that it allows officers to identify owners of vehicles (through vehicle registration) which may have been involved in criminal activity and through further investigation, determine who may have been driving the vehicle during the incident.

What is Static ALPR?

A static or fixed LPR is a camera installed in a semi-permanent location capturing photos of vehicles within the view of the camera.

How would ALPR cameras be used by the Waco Police Department?

The Waco Police Department will use this technology for investigative purposes only. The static LPR technology will be used as an investigative tool to support GSD technology. The static LPR technology will be useful when suspects involved in shootings and/or discharge of firearms investigations flee the scene in a vehicle. In this instance, strategically placed ALPR cameras will be used to capture the license plate of persons or persons whose vehicle descriptions or license plates (partial or full) have been provided to law enforcement. Investigators will also be able to use this technology to identify and link vehicles that may have been identified in other shootings or discharge of firearms investigations. If the LPR photographs the vehicle, officers can use this information, in addition to other evidence, to locate and arrest the offender(s).

Static ALPR will also be used as an investigative tool in other investigations occurring in the area in which a vehicle may have been used in the commission of a crime. If a crime occurs and officers have a description, license plate, or partial license plate of the vehicle involved, officers will be able to check the technology to see if a vehicle matching that description was in the area around the time of the offense.

Oftentimes, video cameras on houses and businesses do not capture the license plate of a vehicle. The ALPRs are used specifically to photograph license plates and if a crime were to occur in the area and the offender drove past a camera, we could easily document the vehicle and hopefully locate the offender.

Is this system constantly monitored?

This system is not monitored. The LPR system is similar to having your license plate photographed when driving on a toll road. Only vehicles that come into view of the camera are photographed. The image captured by the LPR will be retained for a predetermined amount of time and then purged. Only those vehicles identified as part of an ongoing criminal investigation will be retained as evidence.

How will ALPR be deployed?

ALPRs will be deployed in major points of ingress and egress near the GSD technology. The Waco Police Department will use statistics related to discharges of firearms and shooting occurrences as a reference for deployment.

Has the WPD ever had this technology?

The Waco Police Department has used this technology in the past in patrol vehicles to automatically capture an image of the vehicle’s license plate, compare the plate number acquired to one or more databases of vehicles of interest, and alert officers when a vehicle of interest (wanted, stolen, or suspicious) has been observed. The Waco Police Department also uses ALPR data from other sources when investigating an incident.

What is the overall goal of having this technology?

The overall goal of having this technology is to enhance the Waco Police Department’s investigative capabilities by speeding up manually comparing vehicle license plates of vehicles involved in criminal activity.

Gun Shot Detection (GSD)

What is GSD Technology and how does it work?

The GSD Technology is a system of outdoor acoustic sensors that automatically detect and verify firearms discharges. This technology can notify the Waco Police Department when a discharge occurs and will provide the time, location, the number of shots fired, and the type of gun involved (pistol vs. fully automatic weapon).

GSD uses acoustic monitoring which takes advantage of the sound waves produced by the muzzle blast or the sonic boom generated by a bullet as it travels through the air. Acoustic sensors are placed at specific intervals to create a grid with coverage in a designated area. Typically, an array of microphones forms a listening network that detects the sound of gunfire. To reduce the number of false positives, vendors have included human review before notifying the police. The notification process from the time of discharge (including the human review) can take anywhere from a few seconds to a minute.

The precision to which the system can determine the location in which a gunshot was fired most gunfire incidents is located within an average spatial error margin of about 41 feet.

Why adopt GSD Technology in Waco?

The Waco Police Department receives multiple discharges of firearm calls each week. These can be difficult to detect as officers frequently rely on the community to report gunshots to the police. Frequently, citizens wait to call the police and when they do, callers only have a general idea of where the sound originated.

Discharges can be reckless, with no intended target, or a subject trying to harm an individual by shooting at their person, house, or vehicle. Frequently, shootings involve a feud and result in shootings and subsequent retaliatory discharges. These events are dangerous to suspects and innocent citizens and this tool will allow the Waco Police Department to respond to these calls more effectively to prevent death, injury, or property damage.

GSD Technology will not only notify the Waco Police Department when this discharge occurs but provide a location, and additional information which may lead to an arrest. Other benefits of GSD systems include faster response times, victim assistance, the accuracy of locations, enhanced evidence recovery, enhanced reporting of gunfire, and reduction in gun violence.

How will the GSD Technology be used in Waco?

The Waco Police Department has not deployed this technology. The department is currently reviewing bids submitted by GSD Technology vendors. If a vendor is approved, the bid will be submitted for approval by the City Manager’s Office and presented to City Council for final approval. If approved, the WPD will work with the vendor to deploy GSD sensors in the City of Waco, based on historical data of discharges and injuries resulting from gunfire.

Once adopted, the department will coordinate training with the selected vendor, and develop policies related to the use of and responses to calls generated by the technology. These policies will not differ from current policies related to responses to shootings, or discharges of firearms. Because a weapon is involved, the calls will be considered a priority, officers will be expected to exercise caution when responding, and as with current practice, use only the amount of force necessary to make an arrest, when probable cause exists to do so.

How will it be determined where GSD Technology will be deployed in Waco?

An analysis was conducted on Calls for Service related to discharges from March – September 1, 2022, for a Request for Proposal. If approved, before implementation, subsequent analysis will be conducted to determine if the areas have changed, and the technology will be deployed based on that data.

What other cities use GSD Technology?

Houston County Sheriff’s Office, Houston Police Department, and Fort Worth Police Department all use GSD Technology.

Has there been a measurable amount of success with this technology?

News reports in the above cities reflect a decrease in discharges and the technology’s accuracy when determining the difference between a gunshot and a vehicle backfiring. Reports have also shown a drastic reduction in response times as GSD information is being shared almost instantly. Because the technology narrows down the location of the discharge, it increases the opportunity for subjects to be identified, located, and apprehended. However, a significant obstacle to the implementation of GSD technology is the high cost.

What is the overall goal of having this technology?

Discharges are occurring frequently in the city of Waco, and we want to ensure the safety of our neighborhoods by implementing this technology to investigate these offenses more efficiently. Our overall goal is that this technology results in decreases in discharges of firearms by collecting evidence (shell casings, witness statements, residential video, etc.), and identifying and apprehending the suspects.