Vast network of surveillance cameras help Chicago Police track suspects

He’s accused of shooting a woman in the back nearly killing her two months ago, then three days later, opening fire and wounding an officer who was trying to arrest him. 

Little did Michael Blackman know, Chicago police were watching his every move. Chicago is on the forefront of this technology.

There are 35,000 city surveillance cameras giving Chicago Police a bird's eye view. To demonstrate how well the city is covered, Chicago Police tracked reporter Elizabeth Matthews driving a FOX 32 crew car.

They spotted her driving down the street, caught an image in the driver’s seat, and even read the license plate. The software allows officers to enter the plate number and cameras then automatically detect the vehicle in different locations. 

When Chicago Police are looking for a criminal suspect, they can track them by license plate and also on foot, block by block. Police zeroed in on Matthews walking down the sidewalk and eventually back to her car. 

The cameras along with new technology centers helped police track down Michael Blackman. 

The 45-year-old, described by police as an “engine of violence” is now facing five counts of attempted murder, after shooting a woman in the back and a police officer. 

“Detectives did an incredible job in that case,” said Jonathan Lewin, Chicago Police Technical Services Chief. “That is exactly the way this system and platform were meant to work.” 

Lewin says in 2017, CPD added high-tech support centers to monitor crime in real-time, using surveillance cameras and shot spotter.

New this year is what police call "Area Technology Centers.” Officers at those centers quickly respond to crime scenes and collect video from witnesses and surveillance videos from businesses, like the footage found in the Blackman case. 

Sgt. Kinney says Blackman was captured on 101 different cameras.

"We started to track Blackman from the scene of where he shot the victim all the way -- approximately 15 miles,” said Sgt. Kinney. 

They were able to track him through the West Loop and then south on Ashland.

Three days later, the fugitive apprehension team tried to take Blackman into custody near 65th and Winchester. That’s when police say he shot an officer and ran off.

Officers eventually spotted Blackman running into a yard and arrested him.

Police say the new technology has helped drive down crime numbers over the past three years, as murders are down 41 percent and robberies down 29 percent.

“This really began with the superintendent challenging us to implement better process and technology to address a spike in homicides that Chicago saw in 2016, which is just unacceptable,” said Lewin.

The video coverage is about to get even bigger, as CPD is partnering with Ring, allowing them access to porch cameras, with your permission.

If a crime happens, detectives will send a notification to residents in that area and then the resident will allow or deny CPD access to their ring footage.