Champaign up next to consider license plate readers | Courts-police-fire

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CHAMPAIGN – With Urbana city council’s rejection of automated license plate readers still relevant, a local real estate agent wants his Champaign counterparts to look into an issue he hears on a daily basis.

Is Champaign a safe place to live?

“I take hundreds of people to our community every year. I want them to ask themselves, as board members, what would you say? Said Creg McDonald, owner of the McDonald Group.

Amid a record 233 confirmed reports of gunfire and 14 gunshot deaths in Champaign in 2021, McDonald’s recently sent board members a letter urging them to support the use of the devices.

“I am not giving my opinion of any political position. I care about the safety of our community and what has happened in recent years regarding the increase in violence,” he wrote.

“I don’t really like the government interfering in my life. I don’t like big brother looking over my shoulder, but if the police department wants this tool to help me say it’s safe to live in Champaign again, I’m all for it ”, he continued.

McDonald’s was a personalized letter. Council members also received the model letter that was sent to their colleagues across Wright Street opposing the devices, which the letter said are “a bogus solution” … which “will divert resources. towards monitoring tools instead of the resources and solutions that we really need. . “

“Instead, I urge you to fund programs that tackle the root causes of local gun violence: poverty, inequality, fear and lack of opportunity,” the letter reads in part. “Despite the two cities’ commitments to ‘data-driven solutions’, you plan to invest in surveillance when these resources are urgently needed to heal and prevent further gun violence.”

A specific date for Champaign’s board to review license plate readers has not been set, but staff members are working with a vendor on a contract proposal based on policy board members provided in October. .

Council members Matt Gladney and Tom Bruno said they both received multiple copies of the anti-plate reader form letter. Like those who signed it, the two are also disappointed with the idea of ​​giving up more privacy.

“However, I look around the company and everyone voluntarily gives up their privacy. People who have an open microphone on the coffee table in their house… for a computer to give them an answer, ”he said, referring to smart speakers like Amazon Echo or Google Nest Audio. “I know we can constitutionally do this. My concern is whether we should do it.

And as difficult as that question is, Bruno said he supported the use of plate readers “to maybe save another family from an act of random or not-so-random violence.”

Gladney said he had not made a final decision.

“I just have this general unease with the amount of oversight we already have in society,” he said. “On the other hand, I want to do the right thing for the people of Champaign.

“It could help solve crimes,” he said, adding that he had spent many sleepless nights on how best to tackle violence in the community.

Mayor Deb Feinen endorses the use of readers “as an additional opportunity to hold shooters accountable and to provide information that can lead to arrest and potentially a conviction.”

But, like Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin, she is well aware that they are not the solution to the problem but simply a tool to help police stop the actions of those who break the law.

“There is a difference between long term and short term solutions. I support continuing to fund programs that will make a difference in people’s lives and for our community in the long term, ”said Feinen.

Council member Alicia Beck was unable to discuss the issue with The News-Gazette due to a family emergency.

Council members Will Kyles, Vanna Piafetti and Davion Williams did not respond to requests for comment.

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