City of Hammond Announces Completion of “Blue Net”

“The number one priority for any Mayor is to provide a safe community to it’s citizens . . . we want the criminals to know this system is in place and this technology will aid us in their capture.” Hammond Mayor Thomas M. McDermott

license plate reader

Source: Wikimedia

September 28, 2017-Hammond Mayor Thomas M. McDermott announced today that Hammond has implemented a series of 33, permanently mounted, license plate readers at all exits and entrances to the City. The fixed mount cameras are in addition to 2 mobile units placed into service early this summer. The cameras read the license plates of all vehicles who travel into the City and record information regarding that vehicle travel. “These cameras also will alert Hammond Police officers, in real time, when a “vehicle of interest” enters our community. “Vehicles of Interest” are those that are stolen, have a person with felony warrants attached to it or even vehicles involved with amber alerts.” according to the statement issued by the City today. In a recent, high profile case, the City even acknowledged that a suspect was caught when the license plate reader had logged his vehicle at a house in Hammond several times. Despite the fact that the address did not belong to the suspect and no other public record would have led police to that location, police were able to quickly locate and apprehend the suspect based primarily on the information which had been gathered by the license plate reader.

“The number one priority for any Mayor is to provide a safe community to it’s citizens,” stated Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. “My goal is to make sure that Hammond police officers have all the tools they need to help them accomplish this goal. I believe our embrace of technology, in setting up “Hammond’s Blue Net,” will keep Hammond on the cutting edge of law enforcement. Basically, we want the criminals to know this system is in place and this technology will aid us in their capture.”

Hammond Police Chief John Doughty stated “I want to thank Vigilant Systems, the Hammond City Council and Mayor McDermott for providing my officers with the funding we needed to set up “Hammond’s Blue Net,” another tool we can use to help us maintain the safety of our great city. It is technology like this that keeps my officers one step ahead of the criminals at all times.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has filed several lawsuits in California in an effort to protect citizens. In a recent case, the California Supreme Court ruled that license plate reader information was accessible via public record requests. In asking that residents be allowed to cover license plates while their cars are parked, the EFF explained “If the information is breached, accessed by unauthorized users, or sold publicly, ALPR data has the potential to put people in real danger, such as making domestic violence victims’ travel patterns available to their ex-partners. Law enforcement officials should also support this bill, since ALPR data can also reveal information about the home lives of officers or their meetings with witnesses.”

The City of Hammond will partner with Vigilan Systems. Privacy advocates are concerned about the sharing of information with Vigilant as well as the handling of information by governmental agencies. The information exchange is a two way street since Vigilant must have access to personal data to share it with police agencies. So, for instance, in Texas Vigilant offered police agencies free license plate reader technology. Privacy advocates warned that Vigilant would use the information obtained for marketing purposes to pay the costs of the equipment. The City of Hammond says it has budgeted $500,000 for the contract but does not state what the cost of the equipment is and what the cost of the service will be.

Please let us know in the comments what you think of the license plate reader technology.

Comments

  1. Joe mccarthy Reply

    The fact that we live in a more violent Society, law enforcement technology’s that can help prosecute crime or save am innocent life is technology well-served.
    On the darker side abuse is always a slippy slope.
    Right now an once of prevention is worth more then a pound of cure.

  2. Gina Atkinson Reply

    Welcome to 1984, people. Just one more step and they’ll be in your home with your consent, for safety’s sake.

  3. george stoya Reply

    In terms of its encroachment on privacy, it is a dangerous frontier with a huge potential for abuse and theft. Still, given Hammond’s proximity to the dense urban population area constituting greater metro Chicago, where the complexity in immediately tracking a perp is compounded, I guess we gotta undertake the risks of being Big Brothered.

  4. Taxpayer Reply

    Please provide a follow up article which details exactly what the surveillance systems capabilities are. The cameras are posted at all entrance and exit locations, however it says that the system will capture information on “Vehicles of Interest” upon entering Hammond. “V.o.H” are vehicles which are stolen, felony warrants, or amber alerts. What about a late tag and other minor infractions? Additionally, does the city plan to issue tickets based of f this information whether a late tag or speeding? Are there any contracts in place with other municipalities, law enforcement agencies, or vendors of any sort regarding the data accumulation. I’m all for a safer Hammond as I’m a life long resident. I just want to be clear on the details. It sounds as though the city is proud and I’m happy if you all are happy. my only concern is long-term implications and who else is jumping on the bandwagon.

    • richb Reply

      The state of Indiana prohibits camera tickets,,,,,,,,, at the moment. We will see how long that lasts. I wouldn’t it past the city trying to do it anyway, since they are installed now hoping that the state (and taxpayers) doesn’t notice or care.

  5. Peon Reply

    A quick search of Vigilant Systems reveals its subsidiary usavisionsys.com is the one that we are dealing with. I have only glanced at the capabilities of it, but I plan on learning everything I can. We’re not in Kansas anymore.

  6. Citizen Reply

    An invasion of privacy. No matter what the benefit is, it tramples the rights to privacy. Why not put gps tracking units in city owned and operated vehicles. You can start with McDermott’s.

  7. Nobel Reply

    This is a bad idea. There is no reason for all this. It’s just big brother at its finest.

  8. Jennifer Reply

    I think i am a bit confused.. This stated cameras at in and outs.. But then it also stated how they were able to arrest someone from a house that he was at.. How much will we be watched. Is it just coming anf going in the city or is it something that will be watching all streets day and night. I mean i am all for the extra watch for our city and i dont do anything that would alarm me if i was watched but i juat dont want to have to live in a city where i am gonna have cameras watching everything.

  9. Taxus Reply

    What’s with the “blue net” name? Blue=Police? Dragnets are not compatible with free societies. I don’t see an author on this story, but written here is that a suspect was caught because a plate was scanned “several” times at a location with no known association to the plate. So, police have a database of plates and time and gps of those plates? And that it’s all layered on top of property owners and tenants? Im calling bs on that one.

  10. Taxus Reply

    As an aside, Hammond’s police chief was quoted saying of the system, “Its not about traffic enforcement. We don’t want to make money.” Kind of unfortunate the reveal that traffic enforcement is about making money. Maybe someone wants to clarify without falling over while backtracking.

  11. Anonymous Reply

    It won’t change a thing. Hammond is a sinking ship. SAD.

  12. Matt Reply

    Vigilant Systems provides the cameras at a loss but keeps the data that they collect and sells it. They sell it to ticket scofflaw collection companies and also keep part of the fees collected by police departments for traffic infractions.

    Some of the companies also sell the data to repossession companies in different areas.

    Here is an article on Vigilant Systems and there are many more …. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/01/vigilant-solutions-surveillance/427047/

  13. taxus Reply

    Has anyone seen this license plate reader equipment and infrastructure? Looks like it’s capable for more than LPR. Stingray? Cell phone tracking? Facial recognition? What will happen when “BlueNet” becomes self-aware? Will Hammond’s current mayor ever become self-aware?

  14. Taxpayer Reply

    Apparently the discussion is over, huh? Not a single answer to any of the many questions posted. How was the system able to find someone at a house? Are we at the mercy of Vigilant Systems now? Meaning, once they install; all data is theirs to sell or keep.
    note: a quick google search of | Vigilant Systems Blue Net, provides details and articles of how other municipalities are using the date (e.g. Texas Guadalupe County).
    It’s very concerning as the way the system is set up and the way we are supposedly using the data are not one in the same.

  15. Taxus Reply

    How about a map of where these LPR are taking our data? I know two in Hammond will be mobile, but I’d really like to know where the equipment will be snooping. Any reason camera location info would be confidential? Wouldn’t that be ironic?

    • kendavidson Reply

      I am working on your last question and will ask about the locations of the cameras also. Great input, thank you.

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