Eye in the Sky: Drones Will Allow for More Safety and Security at Illinois Public Events

A year after the tragic mass shooting at the 2022 Highland Park 4th of July parade, the state of Illinois has decided to address some of the vulnerabilities faced in securing the safety of large public gatherings at parades and events.

An amendment to 725 ILCS 167, also known as the Freedom from Drone Surveillance Act, now allows law enforcement agencies to utilize drones as a way to oversee the well-being of Illinois residents and their friends and families, as well as tourists and other visitors at events. With public notice, police can now fly drones to monitor any potential breaches to public safety at events and parades, as well as to find victims of crime in emergency situations.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the 2024 Illinois state budget has $270,000 earmarked for “Illinois police departments for capital improvements and purchase of equipment including drones, with Highland Park’s department receiving $15,000.” Each drone operated by law enforcement agencies in the United States typically runs around $4000, giving Illinois law enforcement the ability to procure at least one unit and train officers on the devices. A number of police departments and sheriff’s offices have complemented their First Responders with drones.

As an attorney honored to represent multiple Highland Park Fourth of July parade shooting survivors and families who lost loved ones that day, I am acutely aware of the complexities in creating an environment where people feel comfortable enough to gather again in public without the fear of an occurrence of unknown violence.

I also recognize the criticisms of this bill, which loosened some of the privacy protections of the Freedom from Drone Surveillance Act. Part of my law practice also engages with the Illinois Biometrics Information Privacy Act and other data privacy issues, meaning I am often dealing with violations of the collection, retention and use of biometric identifiers and personal identifying information. While I understand the potential of harm by adjusting restrictions placed on police when operating these drones, I believe that the stipulations placed into the amended bill - such as banning drones using weapons and limiting the capture and retention of the data and information by the drone - and should alleviate those concerns.

Any positive steps taken by our state and local governments, along with law enforcement agencies, to prevent another tragedy from happening is important to our clients and the communities we live in and represent here in Illinois.



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