Chicago’s Highway Surveillance System

The Chicago Police Department, and retiring Mayor Daley, want to take Chicago’s surveillance system to the highway. The ambitious plan, announced earlier this year, is to install some 200 cameras along interstate highways between Chicago and Mexico. The camera’s function is to take pictures of license plates and cross-reference them to known images of smuggler, drug traffickers, and gun runners.

The system costs just short of  $10 million, and is earmarked as an effective method to catch criminals and find missing children, according to a proposal submitted for federal stimulus funding last year. The grant request was rejected under uses for the stimulus money, but Chicago is searching for other federal dollars to fund Project CrisCros.

The effort was lined up by Frank Kruesi, Chicago City Hall’s contact on Capitol Hill. Kruesi said that Mayor Daley spoke with Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano last year during a short scheduled meeting that stretched to over an hour.

Project CrisCros is a project that will bring states, and the federal government together to accomplish one goal: stopping the flow of illegal material into the United States.  As with any technology that is seen to impinge on citizen’s rights, the interstate surveillance system raises privacy concerns and issues of profiling.

Chicago is already known for having over 10,000 personal, business, and public security cameras activated–more than any other city in the United States–and many are inter-connected to central monitoring networks. In addition, Chicago uses license plate registration technology to scan cars entering areas of susceptible to terrorist attacks.

Project CrisCros would cover about 1,200 miles on US highways across 13 states using around 200 cameras; the system would be connected to 50 mobile license plate recognition systems; pictures of vehicle’s tail-ends and license plates would be marked with GPS coordinates and fed into computers to compare them with “hot-listed” vehicles.

The information would be used to analyze traffic trends and develop travel models of vehicles suspected of committing illegal activities from the Mexican border to the Windy City.

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