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CHICAGO -- To make good on his offer to help Chicago combat violence, Gov. Blagojevich envisions putting speed cameras on interstates across Illinois -- and using the revenue to form an "elite tactical team" that would operate in Chicago and other cities.
The idea is in its infancy, with no budget and no timetable.
But the governor also is providing Chicago with immediate assistance, said Lucio Guerrero, a spokesman for the governor.
About 50 Illinois State Police employees have been assigned to work with Chicago Police on everything from tracking down illegal gun buyers to hunting for criminals on Chicago's expressways, Guerrero said.
"I want to be judged not by the number of people we provide, but by the results we provide by the end of the year," State Police Director Larry Trent said.
The help comes a month after the governor offered to lend state troopers to fight what he labeled "out-of-control" crime. Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis welcomed the help, but insisted crime in the city remains at decades-low levels.
According to Trent, new State Police teams will stop motorists for traffic violations on Chicago expressways near high-crime areas. The troopers will also look for gun and drug violations. They can communicate with Chicago Police officers on radios and come to their aid when needed.
State Police special agents have been assigned to the Chicago Police Anti-Gun Enforcement Unit and will focus on guns used in teen violence. And troopers will be assigned to special events in the city such as the Taste of Chicago.
The State Police will provide planes to the Chicago Police for surveillance. And a new State Police unit will track gangs across the state, Trent said.
Chicago Police spokeswoman Monique Bond applauded the assignment of State Police agents to the gun team. "They can help us follow up on some of our investigations into illegal gun purchases," Bond said.
In the long term, the governor is considering installing speed cameras in each direction of every interstate in the 20 State Police districts across Illinois to raise $50 million a year in revenue -- enough for 500 more troopers. The money could support an "elite tactical team" and bolster everything from crash investigations to cold-case murder probes, Trent said.
Currently, camera-equipped vans nab speeders in construction zones, but state law does not allow speed cameras on interstates, Trent said.
In Arizona, 50 speed cameras will be deployed on highways by September with another 50 by January at a cost of about $20 million. The state hopes to raise $90 million a year by imposing $165 fines on vehicles going 10 mph over the speed limit or faster.
Asked what speeds Illinois motorists would have to hit before they would get nailed with a camera violation, Guerrero said, "It would have to be egregious -- 80 or 85 mph. We don't know yet."