New Technology Has Aided Police in 54 Police Investigations
CHAMPAIGN – The City of Champaign is pleased to share details about the effectiveness of Automated License Plate Reader (ALPR) technology in addressing felony crimes in our community. Even as the technology was being installed, ALPRs proved to be highly effective investigative tools and aided Champaign Police in 54 investigations. This includes felony arrests in three homicides, the arrest of two suspected arsonists, and the recovery of 17 stolen vehicles. Thirteen of these crimes also involved illegally possessed firearms. Champaign Police also successfully used ALPRs to locate and ensure the safety of an endangered missing person.
“Automated License Plate Readers are a powerful tool to help solve crime, but we also need witnesses and evidence to be effective,” said Chief of Police Timothy T. Tyler. “Regardless of the technology our officers use, Champaign Police always seek assistance from our community members to investigate the facts and hold criminals responsible for their actions.”
In December 2021, the City Council authorized the use of 46 ALPRs for a two-year trial period. Following a period of supply chain delays, Flock Group, Inc. began installing the units in May 2022. Installation continued throughout the rest of 2022. The City’s two-year contract for use of the technology commenced with the installation of the final ALPR in January 2023.
The contract with Flock Group, Inc. also includes a free one-year trial of Raven gunshot detection technology to automatically identify and determine the location of gunshots. On February 13, 2023, Champaign Police initiated the use of that technology in the northwest part of Champaign. Thirty-three gunshot detection units are covering an area bounded by Bloomington Road on the north, Mattis Avenue on the west, Bradley Avenue on the south, and Prospect Avenue on the east. This technology analyzes short audio clips from its surroundings to identify the sound of potential gunshots. Once a gunshot is confirmed, the system notifies Champaign Police and officers are dispatched to the area to investigate. Gunshot detection units do not record human speech or listen to nearby conversations.
To promote transparency regarding the use of both ALPR and gunshot detection technologies, the Champaign Police Department has launched two webpages – champaignil.gov/ALPR and champaignil.gov/Raven. These pages include detailed information on how each technology works, Champaign Police Department policies regarding their approved use, and answers to frequently asked questions.
Notable Successes Utilizing Automated License Plate Technology
Automated License Plate Reader (ALPR) technology has been utilized by officers and investigators with the Champaign Police Department as an investigative tool, assisting with the resolution of 54 criminal offenses. The most notable successes include cases that earned notoriety within the community, including arrests for murder, discharge of a firearm, and arson. The use of ALPR technology in a handful of these high-profile cases is highlighted below:
- On Sunday, June 19, 2022, officers responded to the 900 block of Bloomington Road for a shooting with injuries. A large group had gathered in the area, and three people were struck by gunfire. One of those individuals succumbed to his injuries. Two vehicles of interest were captured on private video surveillance, which provided detectives with an investigative lead. Detectives were able to identify the vehicle registration number using ALPRs in the area, ultimately leading to the identification of witnesses and the suspect. Additionally, on June 30, 2022, members of the Street Crimes Task Force (SCTF) were assisting with locating and arresting a murder suspect. Detectives conducted an ALPR search based on the make and color of a different vehicle known to be driven by the suspect, and the vehicle and suspect were quickly located. A handgun was recovered during the suspect’s arrest. The suspect was arrested and is awaiting trial for murder.
- On Saturday, August 27, 2022, officers responded to the 700 block of North Neil Street for a shooting with injuries. The victim was transported to a local hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. The suspect and the suspect’s vehicle were captured on private video surveillance, but the identity of the suspect and registration of the vehicle were unknown. Detectives utilized ALPRs to identify the registration number of the vehicle which led to the identification of the offender. The suspect was located hours later utilizing ALPRs and was arrested with a firearm on his person less than 24 hours following the incident. The suspect is awaiting trial for murder.
- On Wednesday, October 19, 2022, officers were dispatched to the 2300 block of Sangamon Drive for a report of a shooting with injuries. Upon arrival, officers located a 12-year-old male victim in a vehicle with life-threatening gunshot wounds to his neck. The victim had been riding with a family member when the driver determined they were being followed. When the family member attempted to identify the driver of the suspect vehicle, the suspect stopped, produced a firearm, and opened fire, striking the victim’s vehicle, and surrounding homes multiple times and wounding the victim. The driver of the victim’s vehicle had been unable to identify the suspect vehicle, but ALPRs captured the suspect vehicle before and after the shooting, leading to the identification and ultimate arrest of the suspect on January 31, 2023. The suspect is awaiting trial on the charge of attempted murder.
- On Friday, November 4, 2022, officers were dispatched to Bradley Avenue at Elm Street for a report of a shooting with injuries. Private video surveillance captured several vehicles of interest in the area around the time of the murder. Detectives reviewed ALPRs and identified the vehicle registrations of witness and suspect vehicles. The suspect’s vehicle was then located, yielding the location of additional witnesses and private video surveillance. The subsequent interviews of those additional witnesses and video led to the identification and arrest of two suspects on December 14, 2022. Both suspects are awaiting trial for murder.
- On Wednesday, December 14, 2022, personnel from the Champaign Police and Fire Departments responded to the 1300 block of Duncan Road for a house fire. The tenant of the residence was suspected of starting a fire in the attic of the residence. Hours later, the same suspect committed a burglary and an attempted arson at a business in the 1900 block of West Springfield Avenue. The suspect left the scene before officers could locate him. The suspect then attempted a burglary at a business in the 100 block of East Green Street. Officers used ALPRs to locate the suspect’s vehicle, leading to his arrest that same day.