File Photo – Illinois State Police | Photo via Chicago Police Department

State police say their use of license plate reader cameras on expressways in the Chicagoland area has been a “game changer” in investigating shootings and carjackings.

The Illinois State Police announced last week that automated license plate readers (ALPRs) have helped in 82% of interstate shootings this year to identify an individual involved in or who witnessed the shooting.

That number jumps to 100% for fatal interstate shootings.

“The use of automated license plate readers has been a game changer in investigating interstate shootings, as well as vehicular hijackings and thefts,” ISP Director Brendan F. Kelly said.

“They provide us vital leads for our investigation, allowing us to track the events immediately leading up to and following the shootings to identify the vehicle involved. ​ The license plate readers are an invaluable tool that assists us in identifying violent crime suspects,” Kelly said.

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State police say ALPR technology can help the agency identify offending vehicles involved in shootings within minutes.

The vehicle registration from the offending vehicle is then entered into the alert system, leading to officers potentially locating that vehicle within a few hours.

The ALPRs are a “crucial resource” that allows ISP to proactively police and evolve with new criminal trends, the agency said.

State police highlighted several instances where the technology aided in the arrest of offenders.

Special agents were investigating a fatal interstate shooting and identified and interviewed a witness who indicated the driver of a vehicle shot at the victim in what appeared to be a road rage incident.

ISP was able to identify the vehicle using ALPRs and the investigation resulted in charges of first-degree murder and unlawful use of a weapon by a felon.

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During a second instance, a trooper monitoring the ALPRs received an alert of a stolen vehicle.

The trooper attempted to make a traffic stop, at which time the vehicle sped away.

The vehicle stopped and the occupants fled on foot. Three guns, including a rifle, were recovered.

During a third instance, ISP responded to an interstate shooting where the victim was almost struck in the head by a bullet.

Troopers entered the victim’s registration into the ALPRs and were able to identify the offending vehicle.

Troopers received an ALPR alert a few hours later of the vehicle’s location and initiated a traffic stop. They took the driver into custody and found a loaded firearm inside the driver’s waistband.

ISP said they took enforcement action with the use of ALPRs in at least 260 investigative cases from January 1 to May 31 of this year.

The funding and installation of ALPRs comes from the Tamara Clayton Expressway Camera Act, which was signed into law on July 12, 2019, and became effective on January 1, 2020.

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In February 2021, ISP received a $12.5 million grant to cover the costs of engineering, permitting and labor associated with the purchase and installation of equipment required to install ALPR systems.

ISP said that images from the cameras are not used for petty offenses, such as speeding.

In 2022, the Tamara Clayton Expressway Camera Act was expanded with an additional $22.5 million for equipment and installation in additional counties.

The cameras are installed on expressways throughout the Chicagoland area. The agency plans to expand the use of the cameras by installing them in several additional counties in 2024, including Lake County and possibly McHenry County.