File Photo. | Photo via Chicago Police Department.

Illinois State Police announced that the installation of over 200 cameras has begun on Chicago area expressways to help combat the massive rise in expressway shootings.

The Illinois State Police (ISP), in cooperation with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), began installing license plate reading cameras.

Earlier this year, the ISP received a $12.5 million grant for the purchase of specialized cameras to read the license plate numbers of vehicles moving in traffic.

The installations will also include a communication system to backhaul the video images to a central location where additional software is used to query and match license plates to existing license plate and vehicle databases, according to ISP.

“This investment in expressway cameras further strengthens the Illinois State Police’s ability to hold violent offenders accountable and fulfill our mission to help all Illinois residents live safely,” Governor J.B. Pritzker said.

“Our roadways should be connections between communities, not crime scenes, and the ISP will offer the additional support necessary to local law enforcement in Chicago to protect traveling residents,” Pritzker said.

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“This is an important step toward expanding force-multiplying technology we have long needed to protect the public traveling on Chicago expressways,” ISP Director Brendan F. Kelly said. “These cameras will be an increasingly important tool for the ISP to collect the evidence we need to detect and deter crime on our interstates.”

In 2019, there were 52 expressway shootings in the Chicago area. That number jumped to 128 in 2020.

As of Thursday, there were 157 reported shootings on Chicago area expressways in 2021, ISP reported.

IDOT and CDOT will be installing more than 200 license plate reader cameras over the next year. The images from these cameras will not be used for petty offenses, such as speeding, ISP said.

An ISP spokesperson told Lake and McHenry County Scanner that additional information on where the cameras will be located is expected to be released this coming week.

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It is unclear if any of the cameras will be installed on Interstate 94 in Lake County or on Interstate 90 in McHenry County.

“Increasingly, we’ve seen shootings throughout the Chicagoland expressways, and I am glad that we will now have the access to technology that will aid in the investigation of expressway shootings,” said State Senator Napoleon Harris, III (D-Harvey). “With these innovations, I hope many crimes are solved and brought to justice, so that the victims’ families may know peace.”

Motorola was selected as the vendor for the camera system following the state procurement process.

“Thank you, Governor Pritzker, for providing comfort and confidence to the victims of expressway shootings. I empathize with the family of Tamara Clayton, her sister Alma Hill, and other family members for enduring the time it took to erect these cameras,” said State Rep. Thaddeus M. Jones (D-Calumet City).

“I am gratified today to see that the Illinois State Police and Illinois Department of Transportation have taken another step to enact the Tamara Clayton Expressway Camera Act,” said Sen. Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago), the bill’s sponsor.

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“It is our duty as a state to protect people who travel our roads. It’s my hope that the addition of these cameras will deter further crime. We cannot become numb to this daily reality of being at the mercy of gun violence in any place, at any time, at random,” Collins said.

The Tamara Clayton Expressway Camera Act, also known as the Expressway Camera Act, was signed into law on July 12, 2019, and became effective on January 1, 2020.

Clayton was on her way to work on February 4, 2019, when she was shot and killed while driving on Interstate 57 near Cicero Avenue in Chicago. ISP investigators responded and the investigation into her death remains open and ongoing.