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D.C. to Add More Traffic Cameras

The new cameras are going to be portable and will be primarily used to catch traffic offenses.

About two weeks after District of Columbia homeland security officials said thousands of private and subway surveillance cameras will be added to the thousands of video cameras already in place, the police chief said more traffic cameras are to be deployed at D.C. intersections.

The District already has traffic cameras positioned at intersections designed to catch speeders and red-light runners, and it has set up neighborhood surveillance cameras, and uses sound detectors with Shot-Spotter technology to be alerted of gunshots.

The new cameras are going to be portable and—like the permanent cameras—will be primarily used to catch traffic offenses, including blocking the intersection and failing to come to a complete stop, but they can be used to provide surveillance, according to police officials.

They new cameras “will be implemented within the next year,” D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said during her monthly “Ask the Chief” program broadcast by the local radio station WTOP. “It is coming,” she said. The new cameras will be used to deter speeding and red-light running “because they save lives more than anything else.”

In addition, Lanier hopes to use the cameras to crack down on “blocking the box,” or failing to go completely though an intersection, usually because of heavy traffic, and thus, when the light turns red, blocking the green-lighted traffic on the intersecting street.

However, the locations where the new cameras will be deployed has not been decided, said Lanier, who added that major intersections in downtown Washington are the likely spots where they will be positioned.

Lanier’s remarks follow an announcement by Washington’s local Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA) that it plans is to link thousands of private and subway surveillance cameras into a single system called “Video Interoperability for Public Safety.”

HSEMA already has centralized the video feeds from more than 4,500 cameras operated by D.C.’s Department of Transportation and its school system. Those feeds are monitored constantly at the agency’s Joint All-Hazards Operation Center.

“In forthcoming years, HSEMA will begin to integrate other (Closed Circuit TV) systems such as the District of Columbia Housing Authority, Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority, CSX Corporation, and local private businesses,” HSEMA’s “Performance Plan” for 2001 states.

Such a move would add the district to a list of cities already receiving private videos, including Baltimore and New York. Unlike the plan by Lanier, who formerly oversaw the Metropolitan Police Department’s homeland security offices, there is no timeline to integrate private businesses into the city’s surveillance system monitored by HSEMA.

The plans align with the 2010 Homeland Security Strategic Plan by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

Developed by the region’s public and private sectors, the plan has as its primary objective “a safe and secure” National Capital Region, and its leading goal is to “ensure interoperable communications capabilities” to transmit and receive voice, data and video on a “day-to-day basis.”