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Indiana Police Chief Advocates for License Plate Readers

Michigan City, Ind., Police Chief Dion Campbell hopes to get a series of license plate readers and gunshot detectors in the city to help fill a big gap in Northwest Indiana, where most other communities have them.

license plates
(TNS) — Police Chief Dion Campbell hopes to get a series of license-plate readers and gunshot detectors in the city to fill a big gap in Northwest Indiana.

Most other lakefront communities already have them, with the notable exception of Chesterton. "We're the missing link," Campbell said.

Gary has seen 146 cases cleared because of the system, said Erica Beauvoir, of Atlanta-based Flock Safety. Those cases involve stolen vehicles, missing persons and wanted individuals.

Campbell said pairing the cameras and gunshot detectors will be a boon to the city's police department, which has to rush to calls of shots fired. The license-plate readers can quickly let police know about vehicles in the immediate vicinity of those gunshots.

"These types of details will help us solve crime in a greater manner than we have ever been able to do," Campbell said. He's hoping for a 25% reduction of crime in the city.

Michigan City police clear 15% of property crimes and 50% of violent crimes, Beauvoir said.

Flock's team made their pitch to the City Council recently.

The audio detectors now recognize gunshots, but engineers are working to get the system to recognize the sounds of breaking glass and people screaming as well, said Josh Thomas, Flock's vice president of communications.

Unlike license plate readers on toll roads, which use optical character recognition to zero in on license plates, the Flock license plate readers offer a photo of the entire back of the vehicle, detecting bumper stickers and other distinguishing features to help police zero in on a specific vehicle, Thomas said.

"For us, this would be a force multiplier," Campbell said. "I really think this is a no-brainer."

Big companies like Meijer or Walmart might want to buy devices and link them to the city's system, he said.

Before deploying the system, Campbell said the police department would hold a series of community conversations to get feedback from the public on issues like where to put the devices. Typically, the license-plate readers are used on major entrances and exits to a city.

Resident Kenneth Fly was concerned about where they would be placed. "Is this another form of being able to racially profile to a certain extent?" he asked. "They've got to be just as heavy in the white neighborhoods and suburbs, too."

Campbell said it makes sense to deploy them in high-crime areas regardless of the racial mix. Residents in those area deserve good police protection just as much as anywhere else, he said.

"We are targeting the crime and crime only," he said.

© 2022 The Times (Munster, Ind.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.