Western Courier

Macomb Police seek new safety technology at City Council meeting

Steven Barnum, Assistant News Editor

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Macomb Police Chief, Curt Barker, may have trouble convincing the city council that a license plate reader system would be beneficial.

Barker hopes to crack down on drunk driving in Macomb with a more efficient DUI-prevention system. The system is able to automatically read hundreds of license plates at once, which eliminates the risk and time it takes police officers to read and record license plates while they are driving.

“It’s a real benefit,” Barker said, “because instead of an officer having to look at those vehicles, he can concentrate on the road.”

Alderman Gayle Carper says she is completely against the system. She is concerned that since the camera takes a picture of every car in its proximity, it will also capture faces of Macomb residents.

“People try to keep their kids off Facebook,” Carper said, “but you can’t keep them off these cameras.”

Alderman Don Wynn found research that backs up Carper, but Barker assured the council that the system only reads and stores license plates.

“It does not take pictures of people in vehicles,” Barker said.

Carper also doubts the system’s efficiency. She shared statistics that indicate the system leads to very few additional arrests. She says that only one out of every 500 license plates the system captured in the state of Maryland were associated with any kind of criminal activity. Macomb isn’t as highly traveled as other places that use the system, according to Carper, so the system may be even less practical if used here. Barker points out that towns in northern Illinois, like Palatine and Rockford, have seen benefits in using the system when it comes to catching more criminals. In addition to drunk drivers, he says the system could also aid with amber alerts and stolen vehicles.

While Barker maintains that pictures the system captures will only be kept for 30 days, Carper says the data could still be available through state archives. She also worries that the media, debt collectors and divorce attorneys can easily obtain the information. This would further pose a serious threat to the privacy of Macomb residents in her mind.

“Most pictures taken are of innocent people going about their business,” Carper said.

“I would remind you that you cannot be stopped by the police because your name is on a list.”

Barker says the likelihood of repeat offenders when it comes to drinking and driving is high. While he acknowledges the system would capture times, locations and plates, he sees it as a price that people pay for safety.

“If we can keep one person from driving that’s been driving drunk, then I think it’s worth it,” Barker said.

The system would cost $24,000, which would come from the DUI fund account. That account receives funding whenever the department makes a drunk-driving arrest. Money aside, Barker believes in the system’s potential and his department’s ability to rightfully utilize the data.

In other news, Macomb’s sole downtown assisted living facility would like additional parking space.

Kelly Shiraki spoke on behalf of Lamoine Senior Living Center, which was recently rehabilitated into a residency for seniors. Shiraki is the Director of Memory Care Services and she says the lack of parking leads to a lack of safety. Ideally, the city would award the facility with both parking spots and loading/ unloading zones. The zones would allow residents to safely travel between the facility’s bus and sidewalk.

Alderman Annette Carper is the Executive Director of the facility, so she plans on abstaining from the vote. Carper did offer her thoughts on the request.

“What it boils down to for us is resident safety,” Carper said. “That’s what we are asking for.”

The safety issues could be solved if the facility could keep its bus parked in a designated spot nearby. It would take up to three minutes for the 16-passenger bus to unload each of the residents. Even though the facility is offering to move the bus during busy travel times, time would add up quickly according to Alderman at Large Dennis Moon.

“We started making a concerted effort to eliminate restricted parking and we pretty much have that accomplished,” Moon said. “I’m totally opposed to restricted parking and I’m really against that bus being parked out front if it’s not being used.”

Echoing Moon’s comments was Gayle Carper, who thinks giving Lamoine restricted parking space would lead to surrounding businesses requesting space, as well. Carper would be in favor of the loading and unloading zone on East Carroll  Street, but she doesn’t feel comfortable with designated parking spaces on Randolph Street. Shiraki says visitors and residents shouldn’t have to worry about crossing busy streets or walking in inclement weather. These additional parking spaces would let workers transport residents more safely, instead of being forced to take less accessible paths.

Mayor Mike Inman suggests that the council should dictate a period of time for when the new spaces could be utilized, if the spaces are approved.

Shiraki says the spaces are necessary to accommodate residents and guests, but that there is room for compromise.

“We would work handin- hand with all community events because they are part of our community, too,” Shiraki said. “We are all very supportive of the community.”

Businessman Chris Trotter purchased the building in 2014. Soon after, he put $6 million into the former hotel in order to get the facility up and running. The Public Safety Committee has discussed the proposal for the spaces, which will be up for consideration during next Monday’s city council meeting. Fencing along the perimeter of Chandler Park is a safety concern for parents.

The opening under the park’s arch poses a risk to children who play on the park’s playground, since it offers a path leading into the intersection. The proposal is that the city approves a fencing project that would block this opening. According to Public Works Director Scott Coker, the new fencing would match the existing border that currently stands around the park.

Including shipping, the total cost of the fencing project will be less than $1,200. The public works department could construct the fencing if the council approves the project, which will be on the consent agenda

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Macomb Police seek new safety technology at City Council meeting