File Photo – Flock Safety Camera | Photo: Flock

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office is purchasing more than a dozen license plate reader cameras to place throughout the county to help solve crimes and find missing persons.

The Lake County Board’s Law and Judicial Committee approved a joint resolution during a meeting late last month authorizing a two-year contract with Insight Public Sector SLED in Arizona.

The contract involves the $90,000 purchase of 15 Flock Safety cameras for the sheriff’s office.

Flock Safety cameras are solar-powered, cloud-based software systems that aim to help solve crime by capturing evidence to provide investigative leads to law enforcement.

Flock software identifies body type, make, color, license plate, license plate state and unique features like decals, bumper stickers and accessories that create a traceable vehicle fingerprint in real-time.

A large percentage of crimes occur with vehicle involvement and obtaining a vehicle license plate is often the best evidence to assist in solving crimes, county board documents said.

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“License plates are open to plain view to anyone on public roads and give officers the first investigative leads when vehicles involved in criminal activity pass through a Flock Camera,” board documents said.

Lake County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Ari Briskman said the sheriff’s office will join over 20 other municipalities in Lake County that already use the Flock system. There are currently more than 260 Flock cameras throughout the county.

Lake County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli said that in addition to solving crime, the cameras will also help with finding missing persons.

Covelli said a business in unincorporated Lake Zurich was burglarized and video gaming machines were broken into.

Investigators entered the suspect vehicle into the Flock system and the vehicle was detected in Villa Park where officers were able to take the suspects into custody, Covelli said.

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During another incident, a vehicle fled from deputies during a traffic stop and dispatchers entered the vehicle into the Flock system.

The vehicle was detected through the Flock cameras at Gurnee Mills and officers arrested the suspect.

“How we can use this is really valuable when it comes to public safety, first and foremost, and also investigating crimes when we’re looking for a vehicle,” Covelli said.

Covelli said the cameras will have to be used pursuant to an investigation and not at random. The data is stored for 30 days and then purged from the system.

The sheriff’s office is purchasing the cameras using its Sheriff Asset Forfeiture Fund for the first year’s payment in Fiscal Year 2024.

The sheriff intends to request the second year and subsequent years’ costs through its General Fund budget.

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The exact location of the new cameras has not been determined yet but they will be placed near public roadways, Briskman said. The locations are subject to Illinois Department of Transportation approval.