‘Exterminator’ armored truck will watch Illinois neighborhoods
October 21, 2010 by Jack Blood
Filed under Police State
NICHOLAS J.C. PISTOR
Creative law enforcement isn’t new to St. Clair County Sheriff Mearl Justus.
Last year, the dean of the region’s chief cops sponsored a “haunted crack house” that used an old grange hall to depict the life of a young drug addict.
Before that, Justus publicized a “drug house of the week,” aimed at shaming dealers into leaving town.
On Tuesday, his deputies lifted a plastic tarp to unveil his newest idea: an armored truck to park in problem neighborhoods as a vandal-proof platform to transmit live pictures.
“I thought about a lot of names … I thought ‘The Cockroach’ would’ve probably been appropriate, but we settled on ‘The Exterminator,’” Justus told reporters.
The donated and rebuilt armored truck, once used to carry cash, is fitted with cameras, digital recorders and gear to stream live video. Deputies will park it in front of the “dwellings of troublemakers” — for days at a time, if necessary — to reduce nuisance crimes.
“It sends a message,” Justus said. “We will not tolerate drug trafficking, littered lawns, loud noise and other neighborhood nuisances.” He said the cameras should keep criminals on the run and give residents peace of mind.
Critics say such policing efforts are ineffectual, and just move crime down the road. Justus said the truck will address local problems one at a time. “It’s that house down the street. That is their concern in their neighborhood,” the longtime sheriff suggested.
Residents can request the truck by contacting the Sheriff’s Department online at www.theexterminator.us
, or by phoning 618-277-3505 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 618-277-3505 end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 618-277-3505 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.
“I lay in bed at night dreaming this stuff up,” Justus joked.
In fact, he said he got the idea from the police in Peoria, Ill., who have used a similar truck, named “The Armadillo,” for several years.
“There’s an old saying about vaudeville … if it plays in Peoria, it will play anywhere,” Justus said. “I’m here to tell you, it plays well in Peoria.”
Peoria Police Chief Steve Settingsgaard, who attended the ceremony, said “The Armadillo” has ‘shut down” crime wherever it’s been used. “Once we parked it in place, everything shut down and was quiet,” he said. “We put it in front of drug houses and in high-crime areas and the ne’er-do-wells disappear from the area for a few days. It is almost too effective in that the video doesn’t catch anything because it is such a deterrent.”
Settingsgaard emphasized that the truck’s cameras can’t zoom or peer into windows, and that it is only parked on public property.
Peoria has since added a second vehicle.
Ed Yohnka, director of communications for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said the truck probably does not pose a civil rights problem, but he questioned whether it serves a useful purpose.
“Various empirical studies show this type of thing doesn’t decrease crime, it disperses it,” Yohnka said. He said it more than likely just moves criminal behavior to the next block.
The truck was donated by Garda Cash Logistics, one of the nation’s largest armored car firms. Several other companies — including Interface Security Systems, Signs ‘N’ Such and Kelso Auto Body — donated labor and materials to equip it.
The Exterminator, sporting a rebuilt engine and flashy graphics, is built to withstand assault.
Its tires are filled with hard foam and won’t go flat. It has a locked hood and fuel cap and will get protective screens over its lights.
Video from the four cameras is streamed live to computers at the Sheriff’s Department and can be monitored by investigators on their smart phones.
The Exterminator is expected to begin service within the next few weeks, Justus said. “No criminal wants this thing parked in front of his house.”.