The Illinois State Police has started installing license plate reader cameras on expressways throughout the city of Chicago to quell increasing violence and the rising number of shootings on area expressways.
In February, the Illinois Department of Transportation announced a $12.5 million grant to install license plate cameras in dozens of spots to collect evidence with the purpose of detecting and deterring crime, including shootings, officials said.
As of Thursday, there were 157 reported shootings on Chicago-area expressways in 2021, according to law enforcement. In all of 2020, a total of 128 shootings occurred on local expressways, compared to 52 a year earlier.
The new camera installations include a communication system to backhaul the video images to a central location. There, additional software will be used to match license plates to existing license plate and vehicle databases, police said.
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Current expressway cameras are low-definition and don’t record video.
More than 200 license plate cameras will be installed throughout the area over the next year. State police say the cameras will not be used for minor traffic offenses such as speeding.
In the most recent fatal incident on an area interstate, a retired school teacher from south suburban Evergreen Park died after she was caught in the crossfire of a shooting Tuesday night on the Dan Ryan Expressway.
In 2020, Pritzker signed the Tamara Clayton Expressway Camera Act, which required the state to install new cameras on expressways. Clayton was a postal worker who was shot and killed on her way to work on Interstate 57 in 2019.
While discussing the new plan to deter shootings Friday, Clayton's sister, Alma Hill, told NBC 5 she was heartbroken over the latest fatal shooting - the death of the retired teacher.
"It shook me to my core," she said. "It brings up so much anxiety. It’s difficult to even go to Chicago."
While Hill supports the new efforts to reduce expressway shootings, she believes more action should be taken.
"It's a step in the right direction, but may be late for some families." she said. "Help the ISP capture those who prey on innocent victims in senseless violence."