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Flossmoor board approves installation of license plate reader cameras to aid police investigations

The Flossmoor Board of Trustees followed the recommendation from Police Chief Jerel Jones and voted to enter into a contract with Flock Safety to install license plate reader cameras at 11 locations in the village.

Jones said the cameras are used to identify vehicles used in the commission of crimes and can speed the apprehension of people suspected of criminal activity. He noted that video evidence is often crucial and sometimes mandatory in obtaining criminal charges from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office (CCSAO) in felony cases such as carjacking or aggravated battery with a firearm. 

“Over the past few years, there have been multiple suspects who have committed homicide and other violent crimes against persons in Flossmoor and surrounding jurisdictions that have frequented, resided or reside in Flossmoor,” Jones said. “The investigations of these crimes often resulted in the CCSAO denying or suspending these cases due to a lack of being able to track their movements in and out of Flossmoor via vehicle.”

He said municipalities in the area already have license plate reader cameras installed, including Homewood, Country Club Hills, Olympia Fields, Hazel Crest, Chicago Heights and Thornton. 

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Flossmoor police have been able to use data from some of those cameras for the past couple of years because the village had a memorandum of understanding with the Flock Safety to have access to data from cameras in nearby villages.

The information from those nearby cameras has been used to identify vehicles and charge suspects in shootings, burglaries, vehicular hijackings, homicides and other less serious offenses that have occurred in Flossmoor, according to Jones. 

The MOU expired Jan. 1, leaving the village without access to the information.

The cameras will provide visuals of vehicles and the registered owners’ information, displays its direction of travel. The cameras can also be set to send alerts to our police officers when a vehicle passes by that has been reported stolen, was used in an abduction of a child when the registered vehicle owner has a warrant for their arrest, Jones said. 

“LPR cameras are force multipliers and greatly assist our detectives in conducting more efficient investigations by gathering more independent and indisputable evidence,” Jones said. “The LPR cameras help identify suspects more rapidly and can aid our officers and detectives in capturing suspects before they can commit more crimes.”

Jones said the department recommends the following locations and directions for camera placement:

  • Flossmoor Road and Sterling Avenue covering east and westbound traffic.
  • Crawford Avenue at Vollmer Road covering northbound traffic.
  • Flossmoor Road at Crawford Avenue covering eastbound traffic.
  • Western Avenue at Vollmer Road covering northbound traffic.
  • Sterling Avenue at Heather Road covering traffic in both directions.
  • Governors Highway at Heather Road covering northbound traffic.
  • Kedzie Avenue at Flossmoor Road covering northbound traffic.
  • Governors Highway at Vollmer Road covering northbound traffic.
  • Flossmoor Road at Dixie Highway covering westbound traffic.
  • Kedzie Avenue at Vollmer Road covering northbound traffic.
  • Dixie Highway at Vollmer Road covering northbound traffic.

Flossmoor Police Department received $85,000 from the Illinois Attorney General’s Organized Retail Crime Grant program. The grant will help cover costs of the camera contract and will be used for overtime security details to cover retail corridors.

The contract with Flock will cost $38,450 for the first year and $34,400 per year for the rest of the five-year contract.

Trustee Brian Driscoll asked whether the cameras could monitor traffic crashes similar to the way closed-circuit television systems do. Jones said Flock offers that capability but it would require additional hardware.

Village Manager Bridget Wachtel said the village is not prepared to pursue Flock’s CCTV product right now, but staff is exploring an upgrade to the village’s closed-circuit system later this year or next.

Trustee Jim Mitros said the system seemed a little “Big Brother-ish,” referring to the surveillance system in George Orwell’s dystopian novel, “1984.” He asked who would have access to the information collected by the cameras.

Hector Soliman-Valdez, a Flock representative attending the meeting remotely, said only Flock and Flossmoor Police Department would have access to the data collected by the cameras. He said it is securely encrypted.

Mitros wondered whether the data could be used to, for example, check whether residents had obtained their village sticker. Soliman-Valdez said it would not, that the system is only used for investigating crimes.

Despite his questions, Mitros said he was in favor of the contract with Flock.

“I think about the 16th anniversay of the Lane Bryant killings,” he said. “If they had this kind of technology back then that probably would be solved by now.”

Feb. 2 was the anniversary of the crime in which five women were shot to death, including Connie Woolfolk of Flossmoor, at a Lane Bryant store in Tinley Park.

Mayor Michelle Nelson suggested the village should advise homeowners whose property is near one of the new cameras to let them know what it is and what it’s for. 

“We’re not watching the homeowner,” she said. And Trustee Joni Bradley Scott urged the village to let all residents know about the program. 

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