Who supports police use of surveillance technology to investigate and deter gun violence?
Illinoisans earning >$150k and <$25k both report crime and gun violence as their neighborhoods top problems, but wealthier, older folks are more credulous toward technological interventions.
Hi everyone - I’m reporting findings from a survey of over 1200 Illinois adults that was conducted in October 2023. I asked people which forms of surveillance technology they’d support being purchased by police in their community to reduce gun violence. This research was funded by the Center for State Policy and Leadership at University of Illinois Springfield, where I’m an Associate Professor of Political Science and the Director of the School of Politics and International Affairs.
I deployed the online survey with the assistance of Marketing Systems Group, a firm that specializes in acquiring demographically representative samples (race/ethnicity, income, educated, region, age, etc.) of various populations, in this case, adults who live in Illinois.
The survey posed the following question to respondents:
Imagine your police district has been awarded a Gun Violence Reduction Technology Grant in the amount of $500,000. This funding will be used to acquire technology to help identify and locate people suspected of engaging in gun violence in your community.
Respondents were provided with the following descriptions of each technology and asked them whether they would somewhat support, strongly support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose using the grant funding to purchase each technology:
Aerial drones equipped with cameras that fly over public areas recording video footage of people, places, and vehicles.
Facial recognition software that matches faces in images, usually from photos and video stills.
Acoustic gunshot detection technology, like Shot Spotter, that detects, records, and locates the sound of gun shots.
Residential doorbell video cameras, like Google Nest, that record video footage outside the front door of a residence, including on the porch, in a hallway, and on the street.
Closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance cameras that continually record video footage in outdoor public spaces such as sidewalks, streets, and parks.
Automated license plate reader cameras (ALPRs) that automatically take pictures of automobile license plates when vehicles drive through certain public areas.
Here are some results from this survey that I’ve had time to visualize. I am presenting these at the National Research Conference for the Prevention of Firearm-Related Harms in Chicago this week.
BTW, these tables and charts are all interactive. Use the links to access the features.
Apparently, Shot Spotter is quite popular, although less so among lower income and Black Illinoisans. This is interesting considering that recently-elected Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson campaigned on a promise to end the city’s contract with Shot Spotter. Johnson reneged on this promise within the first few months of his term, extending the city’s contract with Shot Spotter through at least February 2024. Johnson’s pivot demonstrates political savvy in light of my survey results.
Then, despite the ACLU, left-leaning media outlets, and progressive think tanks cautioning the public about the dangers and/or ineffectiveness of surveillance technology, Democrats are surprisingly supportive of expanding most forms. Republicans, by contrast, emphasized protecting privacy rights in a series of open-ended questions asking them why they strongly opposed each technology.
Finally, older, wealthier, and more educated folks are the most enthusiastic about all forms of surveillance.
It’s also notable that although the poorest and wealthiest respondents all said the economy, crime, and violence were key problems in their communities, wealthy people are much less concerned about violence specifically than people who earn less than $25,000 per year. It’s sad and stunning how many people in that income category in Illinois (largely Cook County) reported gun violence as the main problem in their community.
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