License plate readers, body cameras coming to Huntley

Huntley’s Village Board approved two contracts for different sets of camera at its meeting last Thursday

A Flock Safety license plate reader near at the intersection of Route 14 and Lily Pond Road in Woodstock.

Huntley will have 17 license plate readers installed throughout the village, and provide each of its police officers with a body-worn camera following the Village Board’s approval of two contracts on Thursday.

Adding body cameras to its police department will see Huntley meet a state mandate that calls for all municipalities and counties across Illinois with less than 50,000 people to equip its officers with body cameras by 2025.

The contract for the body cameras, through Axon Enterprises, Inc., will run a little less than $106,000 in 2023, but will see the cost go down to about $95,600 from 2024 to 2027, according to village material.

The hope for the village is to reduce the cost by pursuing grant opportunities that are available, according to village documents.

The contract will also come with in-squad car cameras, which will replace the current in-car camera system that is “nearing its end of life.”

Axon will install the cameras and provide body camera training as well, according to village documents.

While several municipalities in recent years have started acquiring body cameras, concerns about the costs - specifically as it relates to storing the camera footage - have given pause to smaller municipalities.

Despite this, many police departments and residents in the past have said they support body-worn cameras on officers, as it increases accountability for all parties involved in an interaction.

Trustee JR Westberg said he’s seen the product, and “it’s very good.”

The vote was unanimous.

“It looks fantastic, I’m so pleased,” Trustee Mary Holzkopf said.

Passed as a separate item, the license plate readers, through Flock Safety, is a four-year contract that will run the village a total of $187,150, according to village material.

These are extremely beneficial for responding to calls for service.

—  Huntley Police Deputy Chief Amy Williams on license plate readers

The cameras will be placed on “all major thoroughfares coming in and out of the village,” according to village documents.

A map provided by the village shows a list of “potential” locations, with a cluster of them proposed at the intersection of Route 47 and Jim Dhamer Drive.

The readers are great at helping track criminals and their movements, Deputy Chief Amy Williams said at the meeting.

“These are extremely beneficial for responding to calls for service,” Williams said. “Especially when we talk about calls such as stolen vehicles, residential burglaries, retail theft, missing persons, crimes of violence.”

The readers capture vehicle data that can be searched for in a system, including license plate numbers, vehicle make, model, color and unique features, such as bumper stickers, decals and roof racks, according to village documents.

It does not provide police with information on people, including facial recognition, names or traffic enforcement.

Huntley will lease the cameras through Flock, and the company will be responsible for the maintenance and installation of the readers. No additional costs will be assessed to the village if a camera goes down.

Huntley’s addition of license plate readers follows the lead of several other municipalities in McHenry County, who have installed them at entrances and exits their towns as an investigatory instrument.

While police departments have voiced support for the technology as a useful tool, some residents have said they are concerned about the potential loss of privacy that comes with them. Police in response have often stressed they are not used to track everyday people’s activities.

Police, as well as Flock Safety, have also noted the tight restrictions that come with using this equipment to prevent them being used outside its intended purpose.

Trustees had a few clarifying questions and voted “yes” unanimously, but did not provide much comment.

“I love the idea, it’s great,” Trustee Niko Kanakaris said. “I’m all for it.”