Earlier this month, Muckrock found through FOIA requests that my current state of residence, the Commonwealth of Virginia, purchased a DRTbox (usually pronounced like “dirt box”) at the taxpayer expensve of over a half a million dollars, used it a dozen times, and were successful about seven times at assisting in an investigation, four of those resulting in a logged arrest, and five of them with a whole lot of nothing.
My bit of the soapbox is that Stingrays and DRTboxes are invasions of privacy and authoritarian in nature. I hate that they exist at all and I hate more that law enforcement uses them.
But add to that I paid my tax money to the Commonwealth to fund a tool of oppression that when yielded resulted in barely any results at all. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to feel good about that or not.
Amazingly, Virginia is one of the few states in the Union that require warrants or probable cause to use these devices, and I am happy about that.
And my final thoughts on it is that the journalistic coverage of these FOIA requests focus (as I just have) on the expenditure on a privacy invading device that has cost about fifty thousand tax payer dollars every time it’s been turned on. If I were the Commonwealth’s State Police, I’d solve that PR issue by just using it more. Too bad for us, law abiding or otherwise.