Automated License Plate Readers
The Champaign Police Department has contracted with Flock Group, Inc. to install Automated License Plate Reader (ALPR) units for use throughout the community. In total, 46 ALPR units are being installed in Champaign in Spring and Summer of 2022. The initial authorization for ALPR units is for a period of two years.
The below resources, including FAQ and policy documents, are provided to give residents a greater awareness of ALPR functions and limitations and CPD’s guidelines around use, privacy, and storage.
ALPR Units: How The Technology Works
ALPR systems capture an image of a vehicle’s license plate, read the image using software, compare the plate number read against databases containing vehicles of interest, and, ultimately, alert an officer when the system has captured the license plate of a vehicle of interest. Automated capture, analysis, and comparison typically takes seconds. It normally takes 12 seconds or less for an officer to be alerted to the capture of the license plate of a vehicle of interest by the system at a specific location.
An “alert” results when a vehicle’s license plate number has been included on a list of vehicles of interest. These lists typically come from sources such as the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), the Law Enforcement Agency Data System (LEADS), the Department of Homeland Security, the Illinois Secretary of State (SOS), and National Amber Alerts.
ALPR systems also allow officers to manually enter vehicle and/or license plate information into the system. For example, crime victims and witnesses are frequently able to provide responding officers with the description of a suspect’s vehicle, in some cases including either a full or partial license plate number. This information could be entered into the system by an officer and thus included on the Police Department’s list of vehicles of interest.
It is important to note that, although the term ALPR includes a specific reference to an “automated” process, when an alert is generated, an officer must independently validate that the system has accurately read the license plate, that the plate observed was issued by the same state as the plate which is wanted, and that the alert is still current.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Champaign Police Department has been authorized to install 46 ALPR units throughout the City. Other law enforcement agencies, including the University of Illinois Police Department, operate their own ALPR units, which are not directly tied to the Champaign Police Department’s ALPR system.
The recommendation of where to deploy ALPR units was developed by the Police Department in consultation with a Flock Group, Inc. representative and based upon the analysis of five years of data on shooting incidents and associated locations. The recommendation was based on providing adequate coverage of the neighborhoods most frequently affected by gun violence. ALPR unit locations were identified outside the neighborhoods most frequently affected by gun violence, not within them. Preliminary deployment plans focus on arterial streets and the routes most likely to be traveled by those who commit acts of gun violence.
Under Department Policy 41.18, ALPR units may be used to investigate license plate information related to:
“…identifying the license plate numbers of or associated with stolen vehicles, wanted subjects, missing persons, AMBER Alerts, or other criteria as determined by a Deputy Chief of Police. ALPRs may also be used to gather information related to active warrants, homeland security, electronic surveillance, suspect interdiction, stolen property recovery, or other legitimate law enforcement purposes. ALPR devices shall not be used to enforce registration violations or City ordinance violations.”
All ALPR data (both “reads” and “alerts”) will be retained for 30 days. After 30 days, ALPR data shall be purged unless it has become, or it is reasonable to believe it will become, evidence in a civil or criminal action or is subject to a lawful action or order to produce such records.
CPD Policy and Procedure 41.18. The Champaign Police Department has incorporated feedback from the City Council and the public at the October 5, 2021 Study Session, to create Policy 41.18, which dictates the acceptable uses for the technology and protects against misuse. The policy also requires that a Deputy Chief evaluate the efficacy of the technology and the specific ALPR locations twice annually. The ALPR policy can be found online here.
ALPR Transparency Portal. As a part of the agreement, Flock Group, Inc. has agreed to assist the City in establishing and maintaining an ALPR Transparency Portal for the ALPR system utilized by the City. This portal will go live along with the system, once installations are completed. The Transparency Portal will be accessible to members of the public and serves as a hub for information related to the City’s ALPR usage, including information on data retention and access policies. The site provides usage statistics, including the number of ALPRs the City is leasing and a list of the other law enforcement agencies with whom the City shares ALPR information. It also will provide statistical information concerning reads, alerts, and searches over the previous 30 days.
Flock Transparency Portal
To promote the utmost transparency, the Champaign Police Department has created our ALPR Transparency Portal, which provides statistics on the collection, storage, and use of ALPR data in the City of Champaign.
Policy and Reports
- October 2021 Report to Council: Use of Technology to Address Violent Crime