Deer Park adding surveillance cameras that target license plates to its streets

Roadside surveillance cameras that take photos of passing cars and their license plates are coming to Deer Park.

The village board on Thursday unanimously approved an $18,250 contract with Atlanta-based Flock Safety that includes delivery of five license plate recognition cameras and one year of its services, Village Administrator Beth McAndrews said. Extending the contact will cost $15,000 annually.

McAndrews said she hopes the cameras will be operational this fall after local, county and state permits are acquired.

Thousands of Flock cameras have been installed nationwide, including in more than 100 jurisdictions in Illinois. They can be found in Roselle, Schaumburg, Vernon Hills, Wheeling, Woodstock and other suburbs, as well as along Chicago-area expressways and at some privately owned businesses.

Des Plaines police installed six cameras at key intersections in recent weeks, a spokesman said. Officials in Lake in the Hills and Antioch agreed last month to purchase them.

Cameras being installed in Mundelein now could be operational in four to six weeks, along with some that still need state or county approval because of their proposed locations, Chief Jason Seeley said.

Mundelein trustees voted to purchase the cameras two years ago.

“The popularity of the cameras has created a backlog for their permitting and installation teams,” Seeley said.

In addition to license plates, Flock’s cameras can capture an auto’s manufacturer, model and color, and distinguishing features or marks. Departments or companies using Flock systems share data, and the system alerts participating departments when a car being sought passes a camera.

Cameras in Wheeling have helped officers catch people who violated orders of protection, car thieves and other lawbreakers, including a violent robber who had struck in several suburbs, police Cmdr. Jim Borchardt said.

“Using the FLOCK system, which included our own cameras and those in the surrounding towns, we captured an image of the vehicle the offender was using during the incidents,” Borchardt said in an email. “The vehicle was ultimately linked back to the offender, leading to their arrest.”

Deer Park receives police services from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. To prevent vandalism and tipping off criminals, McAndrews declined to say whether Deer Park’s cameras will be set up in permanent locations in the village or if they’ll move from spot to spot.

Some elected officials and civil liberty advocates have raised concerns about potential privacy violations. One Lake in the Hills trustee called the machines Orwellian before voting to purchase them.

When asked about those fears, McAndrews said Flock automatically deletes data after 30 days. Additionally, the cameras don’t take photos of people inside cars, so they don’t record information about the race, gender or ethnicity of occupants, or perform facial recognition tasks, she said.

“There’s also no right to privacy on public roadways,” McAndrews added.

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