ILLINOIS — A man was startled to receive a text message from a strange number chastising him for using his cell phone while driving.
After admittedly taking a phone call during his daily commute, the driver received an unsolicited text message from a number he had never seen before. It read: “Get off the phone when you are driving!”
The sender then provided an identity of “Illinois State Police Officer Robinson #54367.”
Police State USA was alerted to this strange new enforcement technique directly from the driver, who wished to remain anonymous. After interviewing the driver and seeing the message directly on his phone, there is little to doubt about his story.
Illinois is a state that bans the use of all electronic communication devices while driving. However, this unorthodox enforcement method draws questions about what technologies the police are using to limit distracted driving.
Some are wondering whether the incident was the result of the State Police using a “Stingray,” a mobile device which can be used to track location data of nearby cell phones. The suitcase-sized device costs around $400,000 and has been recently acquired by 125 police agencies and 33 states, according to USA Today. For some time, the feds have been issuing grants to agencies across the country for troves of military hardware and surveillance equipment.
The full capabilities of the Stingray remain a mystery, and police agencies have refused to fill in all the details. We know that the device tricks nearby cell phones into believing it is an actual cell phone tower, causing data to be fed into the police surveillance device. That allows police agencies to capture location data and numbers dialed for calls and text messages from thousands of people at a time. The tracking capabilities are said to have a high degree of accuracy.
Another theory is that the Illinois State Police have a database of cell phone numbers that are be associated with license plate numbers. Many would find this intrusive in its own right.
Whichever it is, the state certainly seems to be taking extraordinary measures against people’s freedom to hold conversations while driving — something that is not even restricted in many other states, including some of Illinois’ neighbors.