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Bloomington Police may expand use of license plate reading software

Bloomington Police Assistant Chief Chad Wamsley
Jack Podlesnik
Bloomington assistant police chief Chad Wamsley attended the Public Safety and Community Relations Board (PSCRB) that met Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, at Miller Park Pavilion.

Flock Safety's license plate-reading cameras have been a success in Bloomington, says Assistant Police Chief Chad Wamsley, who updated the Public Safety and Community Relations Board (PSCRB) meeting Thursday evening.

Wamsley reported eight stolen cars have been recovered, including one with a rifle inside, since the cameras’ recent installation. He said the cameras also have been helpful in searching for missing persons and aiding suicidal people.

Currently, eight cameras are in service with two more expected to be installed soon. Wamsley said use of the automatic vehicle license plate readers (ALPRs) may be expanded in the city sooner rather than later.

“We are going to be exploring, like a beta test, of one of our safety cameras with the Flock software to see if that’s going to work,” said Wamsley.

Installing Flock Safety software into pre-existing cameras, instead of putting in new poles, would save money. Wamsley said the cost of putting a new pole in the ground with a Flock camera costs about $2,500. The price tag on using current cameras with new software is about $1,200.

The current plan is to install the software into three or four public safety cameras, but it will need to be addressed by the city council first.

Racial disparity in traffic stops

Last year, 38% of traffic stops in Bloomington involved Black drivers. That means Black drivers were 4.7 times more likely to be stopped than white drivers. Now, through the first nine months of 2022, that rate has dropped.

Wamsley reported a 10% drop in Black drivers being stopped. While racial disparity in traffic stops still remains, it is a notable improvement from last year, and Wamsley said part of what’s helped bring that stat down is focusing more on areas with increased traffic and accidents — rather than neighborhoods with high crime.

“We’re still focusing on high-crime areas. We’re not going to give that up," he said. "The whole community needs to be safe. But we are putting an extra focus on, when we have extra manpower, some of these high-traffic and high-accident locations.”

Wamsley said school zones also have been an increased focus in traffic enforcement.

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Jack Podlesnik is a student reporter and announcer at WGLT. He joined the station in 2021.
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