Several highways have been closed lately due to shootings. So far, there have been at least 159 shootings in Chicago in 2021, and law enforcement and legislators are desperate for a solution. Their strategy? Cameras.
The Role of Traffic Cams in Criminal Cases
Most of us drive through stoplights and toll booths without a thought, and why should we? Well, the answer may not be what you think.
What toll booths, traffic lights, and overpasses have in common is cameras. Almost every traffic sign or toll booth has at least one camera to catch reckless drivers or those who neglect to pay the toll. These cameras snap a picture of your vehicle and license plate number, but they may be able to do so much more.
Cameras in Practice
In a shooting on August 23rd, a shooting was reported on I-290 near California Avenue. The two victims were swiftly taken to the hospital, and police temporarily shut down the expressway to ensure that the scene was secure.
Police believe cameras on the expressway may have captured a photo of the shooter, leading law enforcement to believe that there might be merit in installing more cameras on Illinois highways.
Traffic cams provide hard evidence that shows where you are and whether you were at the scene of the crime. Many cameras are calibrated to capture your face as well, which is difficult to dispute in court.
After watching the sharp increase in expressway shootings since 2018, many law enforcement officials are looking for a way to deter possible shooters and provide hard evidence that leads to convictions. Cameras could be the solution to their problem.
Are There Really That Many Expressway Shootings?
It may seem like IL police are overreacting, but the reality is that there has been a sharp increase in expressway shootings that have killed people of all ages. Some of these shootings are allegedly drug-related, but others lack a clear motive.
DePaul transportation official Joe Schwieterman says this new phenomenon is frustrating to police, yes, but also traffic officials. Many of the cases occur in high-crime areas, but these crimes are taking place on busy highways and expressways could negatively affect tourism.
Unfortunately, Chicago has developed a poor reputation among America’s cities because of the assumption that the city is dangerous or clogged with financially destitute people willing to do anything to survive.
Regardless of the efforts of city officials and local groups to revive the city to its former glory, many people in other states and cities still think of Chicago within the context of criminal activity.
Lawmakers have already passed a law that allows state police to install cameras on Cook County expressways, but the authority of police to keep watch over the roads will expire next year.
Will It Work?
Officials, police, and citizens are hopeful that more cameras will mean more convictions, but many are skeptical. Ed Yohnka of The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois puts more stock in human resources and intelligence – not cameras.
His concern, which many others share, is that these cameras will become an invasion of privacy and extend the reach of law enforcement unnecessarily. There is a risk of more convictions for speeding and other petty offenses rather than homicides.
There are also data concerns – will the information collected from these surveillance cameras be deleted? Will there be any privacy protections for citizens?
It’s difficult to say how these efforts will play out and whether they will stop shootings. For now, smile Chicagoans! You’re on camera.