Smile, you’re on camera: Keeping the island safer

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — If you thought it was safe at the Island, city officials will try to make it safer with a license plate scanner aimed to stop major criminal activity.

Police Chief Randy Smith said the cameras will help identify stolen vehicles, wanted and missing people and major criminal investigations.

There will be two cameras that will catch dual lanes coming in and leaving the Island.

“We’re hoping to have the cameras operational within a month or two,” Smith said. “Ideally we would like to have them here for spring break.”

The camera data will be stored at the High-Intensity Drug Trafficking South Texas Partnership Houston office.

Chief Smith said the Island police will have to request information from the HIDTA agency.

They have the ability to store large amounts of data and will serve as a checks and balances preventing information from being manipulated.

“The reason I voted for it was for the safety of the Island residents and visitors,” said Dennis Stahl, council member. “The main purpose is to keep people safe.”

Island council officials voted unanimously to approve the license plate scanner a recent city meeting.

The Island leaders will work with Texas Department of Transportation to install the license plate reader on poles and cameras on the TxDOT’s roadway and right-of-way.

The money for the scanners and poles was approved last year.

“We’re not Big Brother,” Stahl said. “We just want to know when people who are law breakers and known criminals are on the Island.”

Stahl said the project has been in discussion for more than a year and is modeled off another coastal community where it has been proven to work.

“We’re not looking for the guy who’s not paid their speeding fine or any other traffic violation,” said Mayor Bharat Patel. “What it will register is major criminal activity.”

Patel said if a vehicle has been involved in major crime it will show up on a computer and the police will be alerted immediately.

The police will contact the appropriate agency to let them know a vehicle that is wanted for involvement in a crime is on the Island.

“It’s more of a deterrent,” Patel said. “We felt we had to have something here to prevent major criminal activity.”