Help track Chicago’s surveillance spending

In the Windy City, seized money and assets helps fund local spy gear

Written by Michael Morisy
Edited by JPat Brown

Over the years, we’ve looked at how asset forfeiture programs can be used as major revenue streams for law enforcement, detailing how agencies work around restrictions meant to safeguard due process and finding surprising big ticket items that were seized.

Now, working with Lucy Parsons Labs, we’re looking at how one city has used asset forfeiture to fund a surge in domestic surveillance spending.

The Lab, which includes Freddy Martinez, Brian Kroll, Mason Donahue, and Jennifer Helsby, has been investigating how the “1505” Narcotics asset forfeiture fund has often been tapped to fuel technology like Stingray cell phone trackers and other surveillance gear that potentially conflicts with Illinois laws regarding location surveillance.

The Lab has already received numerous documents detailing the revolving door of funding, but wants your help getting more information, and it’s as simply as copy-and-pasting a few lines and submitting a request through MuckRock.

Check out the project page for complete instructions, and help spread the word so that we can collectively request the full data set.


Image by Daniel Schwen via Wikimedia Commons and is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0