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State police get $12 million for new cameras to combat spike in expressway shootings

The grant money comes as shootings on Cook County expressways more than doubled over the last year.

Illinois State Police investigate a shooting on I-94 Expressway near 79th Street in 2019, looking for evidence of the shooting that left one woman wounded.
Sun-Times Media

Illinois State Police will get $12.5 million to install high-definition surveillance cameras to address an increase in expressway shootings.

The grant money comes as shootings on Cook County expressways more than doubled over the last year. In 2020, there were 128 shootings, compared with 52 shootings the year before, state police said. So far this year, there have been 27 shootings, with 11 injuries and three fatalities.

The grant, provided by the Illinois Department of Transportation, will be used to install license plate reading cameras in 47 places to collect evidence needed “to detect and deter crime,” ISP Director Brendan Kelly said in a statement. State police will also install software to match license plates with those in a database.

Last year, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the Tamara Clayton Expressway Camera Act, which required the state to install new cameras on expressways. Current expressway cameras are low-definition and don’t record video. The act was named for a postal worker who was shot and killed on her way to work on Interstate 57 in 2019.

“No one should feel afraid for their life or safety on Illinois expressways,” Pritzker said in a statement. “Tamara Clayton’s tragic death must not be forgotten, and we must do everything we can to prevent more expressway shootings.”

A sponsor of the bill, state Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City, said the cameras will not necessarily stop the shootings on expressway but “will be used as a tool to catch those people who are using our expressways as their own personal shooting range.”

State police said the cameras will not be used for other offenses such as speeding.