What You Should Know About License Plate Reading Cameras

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One of the newer weapons in the arsenal of Illinois law enforcement is the license plate reading camera, which police departments are using to identify the vehicles of people who may be subject to criminal charges .

In 2018, Illinois cities such as Rockford and Chicago have expanded their use of these mobile license plate reading cameras, and Illinois residents should be aware of how this technology may affect them.

How Mobile License Plate Reading Cameras Work

The Rockford license plate camera system is described as follows:

• Computer-controlled cameras are installed on the roof of several city police cars.

• The cameras automatically snap photos of vehicle license plates as the squad cars drive down the street, including the plates of parked cars, as well as cars driving in front of or passing by the police cars. The vehicles’ location, date, and time are attached to the images for future reference.

• Image and character recognition software converts the pictures into license plate numbers in text format.

• The images and plate numbers are displayed on computer screens in the squad cars. The plate numbers are instantly checked against state and national law enforcement databases, and if a vehicle is on a “wanted” list anywhere, the computer sounds an alert.

• The system retains the camera-captured data for 90 days, unless it is pulled and saved for use in a criminal prosecution.

How Police Use License Plate Reading Cameras/

Rockford police say their system recorded about 234,000 plates in the past year and generated over 1,400 “wanted” alerts. They claim it has been effective in identifying and recovering stolen vehicles, as well as in locating vehicle owners wanted by the police.

Chicago police have used license plate cameras to fight a rise in carjackings that has occurred over the past few years. From January 1 to May 31, 2018, Chicago reported 297 carjackings, or roughly two per day. The use of plate-recognition cameras to more quickly identify stolen vehicles is improving the police department’s ability to identify the perpetrators.

While some critics claim such systems are an invasion of privacy, law enforcement leaders say that high-tech tools are a cost-effective way to fight crime and increase police officer productivity.

In addition to deploying more mobile plate scanners, cities around Chicago are also upgrading their stationary surveillance cameras at key intersections, so that they can produce images that are sharp enough to read license plates.

Consult an Aggressive Will County Defense Attorney

New technology is making it easier for police to identify, locate, and arrest those who have been accused of crimes. If you have been arrested in Will County, you should exercise your rights to remain silent and to be represented by an attorney. Talk to an experienced Joliet criminal defense lawyer before you say anything to the police. Call the Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba at 815-740-4025 for a no-cost review of your case.

Making a False Police Report is a Crime

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Law enforcement officers in Washington State recently jumped into action when they received a call from citizens who believed they were witnessing an abduction in an Olympia park. About 10 hours later, a statement from the Washington State Patrol—Washington’s version of the state police—confirmed that the abduction was not real and, in fact, was part of an elaborate “escape room-style kidnapping” with no actual harm intended. Local prosecutors are now deciding whether to file charges .

A Scary Situation

According to the Washington State Patrol (WSP), the law enforcement agency received a call at about 10:30 pm on Wednesday, August 22. The report indicated that a possible abduction had taken place at Heritage Park in the state capital of Olympia. Witnesses indicated that several men in white plastic suits had grabbed three victims—all of them children—and restrained them with zip-ties. The children were reportedly placed in the back of a red pick-up truck.

Understandably, the WSP took the report very seriously and immediately began investigating. When they arrived on the scene, the entire group was gone, but the police continued to gather information. Soon after, a person connected to the “abduction” contacted the police to say that their family was involved but that it was not real.

The WSP used information provided by the tipster to track down the truck, as well as the alleged perpetrators and victims. Everyone was found safe and unharmed, “including multiple minors.” All were members of the same family participating in what they called a “scavenger hunt” and a staged abduction to entertain one another.

The WSP confirmed that there had been no real threat to victims. A spokesperson for the WSP said, “The abduction was the hoax, not the report. [The witnesses] believed it to be a real event.”

Disorderly Conduct in Illinois

Making a false report to the police—as well as to the fire department or other emergency services—may be considered disorderly conduct under Illinois law . In order to qualify for such charges, the person who makes such a report must know that it is based on false pretenses. In the Washington case described above, the witnesses believed that police assistance was needed, so charges are not being considered against anyone who made the report.

However, it is also considered disorderly conduct in Illinois for someone to cause a false report to be transmitted to any public safety agency. Staging a crime—regardless of the intention—could potentially fall under this category. The severity of the charge and the associated penalties may vary based on which public safety agency was notified and the circumstances of the case. For example, causing a false alarm to be transmitted to the police to report that a crime is being committed could be prosecuted as a Class 4 felony while causing a false bomb threat to be transmitted is prosecutable as a Class 3 felony.

Call Us for Help

If you or someone you love has been charged with disorderly conduct for making a false police report or any other similar offense, contact an experienced Will County criminal defense attorney . Call 815-740-4025 for a free consultation at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba today.

Why Do Chicago Police Struggle to Solve Shooting Cases?

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The City of Chicago has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons again. While 2018 began with a hopeful stretch of months in which the rate of gun violence dropped across the region, things seem to have taken a turn for the worse. In a single weekend in early August, for example, 74 people were shot—the city’s worst weekend in over two years. What is worse is that by Wednesday of the following week, Chicago police had not made a single arrest in connection with the shootings. Unfortunately, this is not a new trend, as available data shows that the city’s police department only solves about one in 20 shootings—a tragic 5 percent success rate.

Telling Numbers

According to information obtained by the Chicago Tribune , the Chicago Police Department (CPD) officially cleared about 17 percent of the homicides committed last year. “Cleared,” however, does not always mean “solved.” A case is reported as cleared if the department simply identifies a suspect, even if the person is never arrested or charged. The numbers are far worse for non-fatal shootings. The University of Chicago Crime Lab analyzed CPD records for 2016 and found a clearance rate of just 5 percent.

So, what is the problem? City officials claim that a number of factors contribute to the low clearance rate. First and foremost, they say, is the lack of community cooperation and trust. When a shooting occurs, neighbors and bystanders hesitate—if not refuse—to provide information to police investigators.

Sometimes, even the victims will not say who shot them. “I believe karma is (vengeful),” said one young man in a jailhouse interview with USA Today . “One day, you’re going to reap what you sow.” The man refused to tell the police the name of the person who shot him in April.

Stretching Police Too Thin

Another major factor is the amount of work being placed on Chicago police detectives. Some detectives in the city are handling up to 10 cases at a time. Criminologists suggest that the best-performing police departments give detectives three to six cases at any given time. The larger caseloads mean that detectives cannot spend as much time tracking leads or interviewing witnesses.

Are You Facing Gun Violence Charges?

If you or someone you love has been arrested on charges related to gun violence or weapons offenses, contact an experienced Joliet criminal defense attorney . We will help you understand your available options and work hard to protect your future. Call 815-740-4025 for a free consultation at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba today.


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