Libertyville police planning license plate readers at five locations

  • Flock Safety license plate readers similar to this are being used in Vernon Hills and planned in Libertyville. The system uses a proprietary algorithm to identify a license plate, vehicle make, type and color.

    Flock Safety license plate readers similar to this are being used in Vernon Hills and planned in Libertyville. The system uses a proprietary algorithm to identify a license plate, vehicle make, type and color. Courtesy of Flock Safety

 
 
Updated 9/8/2021 5:31 PM
This story has been changed from its original version to update the cost of the license plate reader cameras.

After being suspended a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Libertyville police have rebooted the process to install a license plate reader system.

Village officials recently approved an agreement with Atlanta-based Flock Safety to place cameras at five locations for a 60-day pilot period.

 

"It's in the permitting process with the Illinois Department of Transporation," said police Chief Ed Roncone, adding that it will be two to three months before the system is up and running.

The readers serve legitimate purposes, such as alerting police to the location of a car associated with a criminal investigation, Roncone said.

"It's just another tool we're using to locate missing people, solve crimes" and make the community safer, he said.

Libertyville will join a handful of other suburban departments, including Vernon Hills' and Elmhurst's, in using the fixed camera technology as a crime-fighting tool.

Illinois State Police also have begun installing license plate readers on Cook County expressways to try to solve roadway shootings. The agency plans to install about 300 cameras.

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Other departments, like Palatine's, use mobile license plate readers on two patrol vehicles to manage parking in the village's downtown.

"We have found the (readers) to be valuable in reducing staff effort while maximizing accuracy and efficiency," Palatine police Cmdr. Bruce Morris said.

There are various providers, but the Flock system planned in Libertyville and being considered in Mundelein is the same as that in Vernon Hills, which activated 10 cameras in October.

Flock works with more than 30 police departments in the Chicago area, which is one of the company's fastest-growing markets, said spokesperson Holly Beilin.

Mundelein for three or four years had a squad car equipped with a license plate reader, but the hardware began to wear down and fail. The village opted not to purchase a new system based on cost at the time, police Chief John Monahan said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The department is now considering Flock, he said, in part because the integrated system also will be in use in neighboring Libertyville and Vernon Hills.

The Flock system cameras use a trademarked technology to identify a license plate, vehicle make, type, color and light designs. Police say the information can provide strong leads and help clear open cases.

The system also is used to alert authorities to stolen vehicles, burglary crews, missing persons or those sought in AMBER or SILVER alerts.

"These are not collecting troves of data. They don't run every license plate to see who's driving," Vernon Hills police Chief Patrick Kreis said.

"This has nothing to do with revenue. It's not used for traffic enforcement matters," he added.

He said any jurisdiction in the country can submit information regarding stolen vehicles to the National Criminal Information Center, which generates a "hot list." The license plate readers compare the images with the hot list and alert police and dispatchers if there is a match.

The contract with Flock includes installation, maintenance, footage hosing, cellular service and software updates. Under earlier contract terms, Libertyville and Vernon Hills are paying $2,000 per camera per year. However, the updated price for subsequent customers is $2,500 per camera per year, according to Flock.

Kreis said images are kept for 30 days. If a specific image is used in a case, it is kept as evidence.

Ed Yohnka, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said the use of such systems can raise concerns because there is no state regulation of their use.

Among the keys to know is the purpose of the system, how long data is stored and how it is maintained, what databases is the gathered information run against, and who has access, he said.

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