Editorial: We must ensure that traffic cameras are only used to fight serious crimes |


Two Illinois bills are headed to Governor JB Pritzker’s office that are intended to provide significant assistance to authorities responding to or investigating crimes on Illinois highways. Part of a pilot program, the laws reflect strong and well-intentioned legislation demonstrating a state commitment to attempting bold moves to fight crime.

But their very existence is also a demonstration of their greater risk, and this observation must be a constant refrain as this testing program continues.

The measures directed at the governor have been backed by the Illinois State Police and the state attorney general, and Pritzker has earmarked $20 million in next year’s budget to help fund them. .

They’re adding 21 counties — including DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will — to a pilot program introduced in 2020 to use license plate reading cameras in response to rising cases of freeway shootings. They are also adding several violent crimes to the list of crimes to which the cameras can be applied, and they are pushing the end of the evaluation period to June 2025.

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Again, all reasonable adjustments toward a laudable goal — reducing highway violence. An online tool created by the state police shows that highway shootings have gone from 51 in 2019 to nearly triple that number in 2020 and to more than double that number — 310 — in 2021. now, 73 cases have occurred this year, down from four. compared to the same time last year, but remains an alarming figure. Obviously, the question deserves some attention.

But Sen. Jason Barickman, a Republican from Bloomington, outlined the danger lurking in a Capitol News Illinois report.

“While these tools may provide some benefit to the public,” Barickman said, “the risk is that they are susceptible to abuse and have a chilling effect on public life.”

To recognize the senator’s concern, one need only look at the shenanigans that have occasionally occurred involving traffic cameras in local communities.

Chicago Democratic Rep. Ann Williams, the sponsor of one of the bills expanding the pilot program, said she, too, is concerned about the risk.

“But the targeted use of cameras with limited use and narrow reach,,, these are violent crimes that affect people every day, and how to hopefully fix it. “, she told CNI.

So far, the plan is limited in scope. And so far, it seems potentially beneficial. But good ideas have a way of creeping past their original intent. The actions approved this spring by an overwhelming bipartisan majority in both houses obviously expand the scope and goals of the original legislation. And, they seem consistent with the constraints imposed on the technology.

However, to ensure that this continues will require detailed data collection and in-depth analysis. We look forward to seeing those details and that analysis three years from now.

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