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Electronic goodies at MCSD

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

McHenry County, Illinois

Electronic goodies at MCSD

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
April 29, 2013


An article in this morning's Northwest Herald reveals that the McHenry County Sheriff's Department is using Automatic License Plate Readers (ALPR). You know what these are; right?

Little cameras in the windshield and rear window can read license plate numbers (thousands of them) and identify stolen cars and cars of wanted owners (not necessarily the drivers). When did they get this tool?

Zinke told the Northwest Herald: "The readers allow officers to search for stolen vehicles, suspects who are wanted, or those suspected of dealing drugs, among other things.

"Recently, they have been used to track down motorists involved in hit-and-run accidents when the only information available is a partial plate number and description of the vehicle involved, as well as shootings involving vehicles where no suspect has been identified."

Now Zinke either fed this nonsense to the reporter or the reporter misunderstood what Zinke told him. My money is on the reporter. I'll bet he understood exactly what he was told and reported it accurately.

The "stolen vehicles" recognition could be partially correct, if the stolen vehicle still displays its own plate. How many crooks steal a car and then drive around with the its plates still on it? So, the ALPR really IDs a stolen license plate; then the deputy has to figure out if the car itself is stolen and whether the person driving it is a thief, or "the" thief.

The ALPR will not identify a suspect who is wanted; it recognizes license plates. Same with those (persons) who are suspected of dealing drugs.

What does "... track down motorists involved in ... shootings involving vehicles where no suspect has been identified" mean? If they have a license plate number, then they have a suspect or lead. Duh...

But it's the "among other things" that bothers me the most. Who controls what license plate numbers are entered into the search system? How many license plate numbers are entered for vehicles of people who are not criminals, but somebody that someone at MCSD just wants to spy on?

A few years ago Sheriff Nygren claimed I was stalking him. Are my license plates in the system?

Of course, I had a very unusual way of stalking Sheriff Nygren. My secret method was to drive into an outlying space in the Jewel-Osco parking lot in Woodstock and then pretend to be making a telephone call, until Sheriff Nygren pulled in alongside of me in his County-owned Tahoe and stopped alongside my car. Ha. And I'm the one who is stalking him! There's a bed over at South St. Hospital for you, Keith, if you are still having delusions or if you still can't control the lies you tell.

Other "high tech" programs at MCSD? How about the "intelligence-led policing effort"?

The deputies hate this one. This is the one where crime locations are pinpointed on a map, and then a deputy drives his patrol car out to that area and sits there for his entire shift, waiting for the next crime. And, while he sitting there, the rest of his assigned district goes without protection. And they call this "intelligence-led" policing.

They could learn a lesson from the prospectus for a high-risk penny stock. "Past performance is not indicative of future results." That one has been around for a long time.

Deputies, get hold of Lawerence Synett at the Northwest Herald. Ask him if he will maintain confidentiality about information you provide him. I believe he will. Tell him how intelligence-led policing really affects law enforcement in McHenry County.



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