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Home > Leadership > Mayor > CitiStat Buffalo > Archive CitiStat Buffalo In The News > 2007 Archives > Brown Renews Push For Traffic Surveillance Cameras

Brown Renews Push For Traffic Surveillance Cameras

Motorists who run red lights at accident-prone intersections in Buffalo might soon be caught on candid camera. And the snapshots could end up saddling reckless drivers with traffic fines.

Mayor Byron W. Brown and Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson say they are aggressively pursuing a plan to introduce "red light cameras." The surveillance cameras likely would be used on street corners where many accidents have occurred.

"This is something I'm very passionate about," said Brown, adding that he tried to bring red light cameras to Buffalo several years ago when he was a state senator.

"It's something that I welcome," said Gipson, adding that cameras would help police enforce traffic laws and promote public safety.

In the past, advocates of red light cameras have operated on the premise that state approval is needed before municipalities can install them. New York City has used cameras for many years, but the state Legislature has been reluctant to expand their use, citing privacy issues and other concerns.

Gipson was in Chicago this week where a city law permits the use of cameras at some intersections where accidents have been common. Gipson said he thinks Buffalo could enact the same type of law -- as long as officials can document traffic dangers at specific locations.

Red light cameras already have garnered interest at other levels of city government, First Deputy Mayor Steven M. Casey said.

"I'm sure we'll be able to get a sponsor on the Common Council," he said.

Brown said the city would still likely pursue state permission to install traffic enforcement cameras, but he thinks the new option could be a backup strategy if the plan faces obstacles in Albany.

But the regional director of the New York Civil Liberties Union said the use of cameras raises some troubling questions.

"Video surveillance technology has led to a tremendous number of abuses," said John A. Curr III. "There have been all kinds of problems in New York City."

There's a possibility that police might use the cameras for purposes other than catching reckless drivers, Curr said. For example, he said there's nothing that would stop them from using cameras to film people during demonstrations. The scope and purpose of surveillance cameras in public places must be spelled out, along with training and monitoring policies, Curr said.

Buffalo's accountability panel also reviewed plans to install surveillance cameras at dozens of crime hot spots. Police officials have identified 38 areas throughout the city where they would like to install mobile cameras.