DOWNTOWN — More technology to track license plates is coming to DuSable Lake Shore Drive in an effort to crack down in shootings and carjackings.
Gov. JB Pritzker signed the Illinois Expressway Camera Act Friday, giving the city the authority to install more automated license plate readers on DuSable Lake Shore Drive, adding to the dozens of automated license plate readers Illinois State Police already have on Chicago expressways.
There are already speed and license plate cameras at locations where DuSable Lake Shore Drive intersects with city streets, Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) said in his ward newsletter. But because state roads like DuSable Lake Shore Drive are under Illinois State Patrol’s jurisdiction, the city couldn’t previously expand its current network of surveillance cameras. Now it can, he said.
Hopkins said the added cameras will be a big help to the Chicago Police Department, which is short “about 2,000 officers.”
“Even if we wanted to hire 2,000 officers tomorrow, logistically we couldn’t do it,” Hopkins said. “But we can deploy cameras pretty quickly to be their eyes and ears. They don’t replace human beings, but they supplement the existing patrol force.”
The cameras will use digital license plate reading technology to help investigate vehicular hijacking, aggravated vehicular hijacking, terrorism, motor vehicle theft, or any forcible felony, including, but not limited to, offenses involving the use of a firearm, according to the law.
There have been 69 expressway shootings on Cook County-area expressways so far this year through June 2, resulting in 32 people hurt and one killed, according to Pritzker’s office. There were 90 expressway shootings with 45 people hurt and eight killed at that point in 2021.
“There is nothing more important than keeping Illinoisans safe — in our schools, in our parks, and on our expressways,” Pritzker said in a statement. “The tragic incidences of gun violence on our highways requires aggressive and intentional action.”
The Illinois State Police, the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Chicago Department of Transportation announced plans for the expressway license plate readers in October 2021, bringing the cameras to the Dan Ryan. State leaders touted the technology in helping police arrest multiple people accused of shootings along the expressways.
Around 150 cameras have been installed so far with another 150 planned, covering the Dan Ryan, Kennedy, Eisenhower, Stevenson and Interstate 57, Pritzker said.
Hopkins is hoping the new cameras will also help crack down on illegal motorcycle racing along Lake Shore Drive, which he believes is a big issue during the summer months.
“If we start enforcing the existing laws better, we’ll put the word out that Chicago is not a place to come to engage in illegal racing on the expressways,” Hopkins said.
The law requires details about the new camera program’s objectives, counties where the program is operational and its policies to be made publicly available and posted online within 90 days.
Hopkins said the cameras could be up and running this summer.
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