Chicago unveils license plate-reading devices

Chronicle Media

License plate readers like this one will be part of 200 Chicago police patrol vehicles by early March. City officials hope the investment will keep carjackings on the decline. (Genetec photo)

Chicago is putting 200 patrol vehicles equipped with license plate reader technology on the street.

The citywide rollout will ensure that every police district has at least six LPR-equipped vehicles in their fleet. City officials said the investment builds on the strategy for combating carjacking and car thefts that has resulted in an 18 percent reduction in incidents of carjacking and a 31 percent increase in arrests compared to a year ago.

“We are ensuring our officers have the tools, training and technology to be proactive in the fight against crime,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “Equipping squad cars with state-of-the-art technology and deploying them to every district in Chicago will help the Chicago Police Department continue to drive down crime in communities across the city.”

LPR technology allows the city to match license plates against the list of stolen vehicles sent to the LPRs daily by the Office of Emergency Management and Communications. If the LPR system identifies a stolen vehicle, CPD officers are alerted so they can investigate. The alerts will also be analyzed in CPD’s Strategic Decision Support Centers, which are hi-tech nerve centers within police districts across the city

“CPD’s use of LPR technology demonstrates how sharing resources through targeted collaboration helps violent crime victims,” police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said. “The recovery of these stolen vehicles and the arrest of the individuals driving them will serve as a deterrent to other individuals considering committing similar crimes.”

The first phase of 50 LPR-equipped vehicles will be deployed this month. Additional vehicles will roll out during the first quarter, with all 200 cars deployed by early March.

The latest investment brings the police fleet of LPR-equipped vehicles to nearly 300 in addition to 126 LPR pole-mounted units and mobile booter vehicles that are utilized by partner city agencies including the Office of Emergency Management and the Department of Finance.

The expansion builds off of a strategy that launched in 2017 that includes the Vehicular Hijacking Task Force, a multi-agency effort comprised of local, state and federal law enforcement partners and prosecutors, who work together to identify carjacking patterns and apprehend targeted offenders.

The latest technological enhancements follow a second consecutive year of citywide reductions in overall crime, with fewer murders, shootings, robberies, burglaries and vehicle thefts throughout 2018 than in 2017.