Over recent years there has been a significant push to install video surveillance systems in municipalities to improve police presence. I spoke with Sergeant Chris Kovac from the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department on sdnTVnews at ASIS International last year (our most popular video, by the way, with over 5,400 views), and he discussed the installation of a wireless video mesh network throughout the city.
He said an integral part of this system was utilizing license plate recognition software to improve traffic monitoring, and the agency had experienced impressive results in their ability to identify and track stolen vehicles.
More and more cities are relying on this technology to capture traffic violations as well. Cameras mounted at traffic lights identify cars that illegally run red lights, capture license plates and automatically issue traffic citations to the registered owner of that car.
However, an article in USA Today found that such technology is causing a backlash from many communities across the country.
The cameras, billed as safety devices since their introduction in the USA nearly 20 years ago, are increasingly viewed by many motorists as unreasoning revenue generators for hard-up local governments.
According to the article, there are at least seven states (Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, West Virginia and Wisconsin) who have banned red light cameras.
Even lawmakers who were once proponents of the technology have changed their stance on the technology and say the use of the cameras needs to be limited:
"They were sold to us in a different manner than what they're being used for," says state Rep. Jack Franks, a Democrat. "The municipalities have put them in areas where they're just to make revenue." He says that since 2006, crashes have increased at half the intersections in Illinois that have cameras, stayed the same at 25% and decreased at 25%.
Frankly, I don't understand the argument here. Motorists should not be running red lights, period. This type of system is actually a great example of how technology can improve the effectiveness of police agencies. There is no way any community has enough personnel (or money) to place officers at all or even a small percentage of its traffic lights and this type of technology can actually supplement police presence. I live in a city (albeit a small one), but I see people running red lights all the time in an effort to get through intersections. It's illegal and it's dangerous and people should be held accountable for their actions. Sorry public opinion - you're wrong on this one.