May 26, 2021

For Further Information:

Chris Blankenhorn,

John Keating,

RELEASE: Sangamo Valley Green Party Opposes Plans to Further Expand Police Surveillance

The Sangamo Valley Green Party opposes plans to purchase license plate reader cameras and expand the ShotSpoter system and calls on the city council to reject this expansion of police surveillance in our communities, implement real community control of the police, and invest in social services and programs to address poverty, which is at the root of most crime.

The ShotSpotter system, which will cost over a quarter million dollars per year going forward and has had questionable results, such as New Years Eve when it identified 218 separate shooting incidents, which is 21% of the total incidents reported from May 2020, when the system was implemented, through January 2021.  In addition to its questionable efficacy, the ShotSpotter system is only deployed on the East, North, and South sides of Springfield, showing it is targeting minority and working class neighborhoods for amplified police surveillance.

The proposed new license plate reader system, which city leaders claim will reduce gun violence, is a reactive system that can only be used after a crime has been committed.  Further, this system uses mass collection of timestamped images of license plates, which means that all citizens are having their movement tracked.  Such mass collection of data poses a threat to the privacy of all community members and raises questions of data security and use policies.

“The focus on these types of systems and marketing them as crime reduction tools, shows that Springfield leadership has a fundamentally authoritarian view of policing.  We don’t need mass surveillance of our community.  We need real community control of the police and investment in social services and programs that address the root causes of crime in our community.  These systems do not reduce or prevent crime, they are reactionary systems that increase authoritarian policing patterns that posture law enforcement as an occupying army, rather than a public safety organization,” said Chris Blankenhorn, SVGP member and Illinois Green Party Secretary.

With a budget line for 2022 of over $51 million, the police budget is already the largest line item in Springfield’s budget and represents 98.8% of the funding requested for 2022.  That is compared to Public Works receiving just under $17 million in 2022, or 30.2% of the funds requested.  The Springfield Police Department has also received almost $132,000 in 1033 Program Military Equipment Disbursements over the years, including 51 military rifles.  This is in addition to rifles and a shotgun acquired by the Springfield Park District Police and $784,000 to the Sangamon County Sheriff, including a mine resistant vehicle (different from the one they want now), rifles, and scopes and night vision goggles.

“When shot spotter systems, which are only deployed in select parts of Springfield, signal a false warning, the result is a militarized police force swarming already over policed neighborhoods,” said John Keating, SVGP member and 2020 Illinois State House candidate in the 96th district.  “We are already under funding essential services in order to over fund policing and we cannot afford to spend more money on mass surveillance systems that do nothing to prevent violence or address the root causes of crime.”