July 12, 2024
Home » State Of Illinois Sued Over ALPR Saturation

State Of Illinois Sued Over ALPR Saturation

Summons have been issued to the Illinois State Police, Attorney General Kwame Raoul, and Governor J.B. Pritzker in a case challenging the use of automatic license plate reading (ALPR) cameras statewide.

The Liberty Justice Center filed the lawsuit on Thursday in the Northern District of Illinois federal court. Reilly Stephens, counsel on the case, highlighted the pervasive presence of ALPRs.

“Every time you drive on one of these expressways, they’re tracking every time you pass one of these cameras,” Stephens said. “They’re feeding that into a national database shared by thousands of law enforcement agencies across the country.”

In January, the Illinois State Police (ISP) announced an increase in the use of technology to “target and track criminal activity.”

“Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs) capture images of vehicle license plates, and whenever a wanted or suspected vehicle is detected, an alert is issued, helping law enforcement locate and track the vehicle,” the agency stated.

Governor Pritzker described the ALPRs around Chicago as “another step to enhance public safety for residents and visitors of the nation’s third-largest city.”

By the end of 2022, ISP had installed 289 ALPRs in the Chicago area. In 2023, 139 additional ALPRs were installed in Cook, St. Claire, Champaign, and Morgan counties. For 2024, installations are planned in Macon, Madison, Peoria, Bureau, Lake, and Winnebago counties, with additional cameras in Boone, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Henry, Kane, Kendall, LaSalle, McHenry, Rock Island, Sangamon, and Will counties, as well as along Lake Shore Drive in Chicago.

An ISP ALPR report from August 2023 revealed that installations in Cook and St. Clair counties cost $6.6 million, with maintenance costs of $100,000. The system captured 1.5 million license plate reads, with 282,118 inquiries involving criminal investigations.

The budget approved for the next fiscal year includes $7 million for the Illinois Department of Transportation to install cameras and ALPRs on state routes.

While Stephens acknowledged that the ALPR system might help track fleeing criminal suspects, he argued that it has the potential for much broader surveillance.

“Every time you go to the doctor, a political rally, a Trump rally, a Joe Biden rally, a Black Lives Matter rally, an NRA event,” he said.

The lawsuit contends that the system violates Fourth Amendment rights against unwarranted search and seizure.

“The permanent tracking of every citizen’s travels and whereabouts is a bridge too far,” Stephens stated.

ALPRs are also used by private entities such as homeowners’ associations, shopping malls, and movie theaters.

“The difference is the movie theater can’t throw me in jail, and that’s the power that governments have, which is why there are more restrictions on their ability to track our whereabouts at all times,” Stephens explained.

A spokesperson for ISP stated that directives and public acts ensure ALPR data access and use “shall be for law enforcement purposes only and in compliance with all applicable training, laws, and administrative rules.” The data is stored within the Law Enforcement Archival Reporting Network for 90 days.

“Information obtained from the ALPR system, software, associated databases, and data shall not be disseminated to the public except as authorized or required by law,” the agency said. “Information may be shared with other law enforcement agencies or officers only for law enforcement or public safety functions.”

Stephens remains skeptical about the adequacy of these rules to prevent misuse.

“I just don’t trust them, to be honest,” he said. “They’re not supposed to use this to check up on their ex-girlfriends, but I haven’t seen any actual processes that would prevent that. So, we think they’re either going to have to shut down the cameras or adhere to probable cause and warrant requirements like other Fourth Amendment searches.”

The ISP indicated that “Misuse or abuse of the ALPR system, software, associated databases, or data may be subject to sanctions and/or disciplinary action.”

A hearing date for the case has not yet been set.