Lansing Police to use cameras to track suspects more effectively, not monitor traffic violations
by Josh Bootsma
LANSING, Ill. (October 26, 2019) – In the next few months, Lansing residents will see cameras being set up at three intersections throughout the village. These cameras will not document traffic violations but rather will be used to help catch criminals passing through some of Lansing’s most heavily used intersections.
The intersections at 173rd and Torrence, 176th and Torrence, and Ridge and Wentworth (pictured above) will be equipped with the cameras, which are specially designed to identify license plates and other characteristics of vehicles passing through.
“It’s going to make a significant difference on identifying vehicles of interest that are coming in and going out of town,” said Deputy Police Chief Steve Roberts, who oversaw the grant process that secured the necessary funding for the project.
Each camera will be pointed at a lane of traffic and is designed to recognize cars and license plates based on criteria entered by the Lansing Police Department (LPD). Police can receive alerts via phone or email if a license plate that they are searching for appears in any of the cameras. They can also search by the year, make, and model of a car. For example, if the LPD knows that a blue Honda Civic was seen fleeing a crime scene with a license plate that starts with the letter G, they can place a search for any vehicles matching that description and receive notifications if any such cars pass through the aforementioned intersections. The software can also be used to search for vehicles that may have travelled through in the past.
The software used to collect, store, and help share this information is provided by Vigilant Solutions, which Lansing has already benefited from because many surrounding communities including Hammond, Munster, and Calumet City already use it.
In a series of home invasions two years ago in Lansing and Hammond, one of which involved a criminal sexual assault, the suspect’s vehicle was identified using license plate recognition cameras, and he was taken into custody in Gary. Roberts said this case was solved “because of these cameras.”
“When another town’s searching for something, [saying], ‘Hey I need this car, it’s in Lansing,’ we’ll have that data for them. We’ll be able to get the pictures. This is such a great tool,” Roberts said.
The grant for the project was awarded by the Cook County Department of Homeland Security in the amount of $301,169, which will cover the cost of purchasing and installing 16 cameras, as well as five years of service. The Village Board of Trustees waived the typical process of collecting bids for such a project at their October 1 meeting, as Vigilant Solutions is the software company used by all of the surrounding communities and best allows for information sharing. Brite Computers will be installing the cameras.
The traffic light structures along Torrence Avenue are owned by the Illinois Department of Transportation, which has restrictions on what can be placed on their poles. As such, new poles will be installed to host the cameras along the Torrence intersections at 173rd and 176th. The cameras will monitor only north/south traffic at these intersections. The Ridge and Wentworth cameras will be placed on the existing village-owned poles and will monitor east/west traffic. These locations were chosen because of their heavy use and proximity to the interstate (Torrence intersections) and state line (Ridge and Wentworth intersection).
Roberts assured that the cameras would not be used as speed cameras or red-light cameras.
“Hopefully by the end of the year, we’ll be up and running,” he said.
The Lansing Police Department is located at 2710 E 170th St.