GURNEE, Ill. — Since September, Gurnee Mills has used a ‘Flock Safety’ automated license plate reader system as a way to quell crime that happens at the mall.
“We’ve had seven arrests [and] we’ve been able to recover four stolen vehicles,” said Shawn Gaylor, an officer with the Gurnee Police Department. “And that’s just the beginning in two months.”
Holly Beilin, a spokeswoman with Flock Safety, said about 70% of crimes are committed with a vehicle, so being able to put a technology like a license plate reader system in place at a location like Gurnee Mills helps provide evidence for a significant portion of the crime that occurs there.
Flock Safety’s license plate reader system takes still photos of the rear license plate of vehicles entering and exiting the mall, and in real time, alerts police if the registered owner is wanted for a crime locally or nationally, if the vehicle is stolen, or if the car is connected to an Amber or Silver Alert.
“The police have a tough enough job,” said Don Hubbartt, a shopper at Gurnee Mills. “So, we support their ideas to try and make the community safer.”
Not everyone is onboard with the license plate reader systems though.
“It’s also protecting the community because you’re protecting who’s around you,” said Kathryn, a shopper at Gurnee Mills. “At the same time, it’s a violation of your privacy because you’re scanning my plate without my permission.”
In a similar vein, the ACLU issued a statement, denouncing the use of automated license plate reading systems.
“Automatic License Plate Readers are a powerful surveillance tool, allowing a driver’s location to be tracked, recorded and stored,” the statement reads. “For this reason, the ACLU has opposed the use of such devices.”
The ACLU goes on to say, “in this instance — where a private company apparently controls the cameras — it raises questions about whether customers of Gurnee Mills will ever know how their location data is being used or shared.”
Flock Safety said information stored in their system is deleted after 30 days and the readers do not use facial recognition technology.
Gurnee Mills employing the use of automated license plate readers is not a completely foreign concept in the Chicagoland area, as police departments in Elk Grove, Niles, Palatine, Naperville and Oak Park also use the systems.