Cameras bad for policing


Traffic cameras are designed to enforce the speed limit in high-traffic areas such as state Route 46 in Howland. On the surface, these cameras seem to be a useful tool to obtain data and enforce the law while freeing up manpower. However, they may undermine an essential aspect of policing that may impact the big picture of law enforcement in Howland Township.

There are generally two types of policing, reactive and proactive. Usually reactive policing is when an officer is dispatched to a call received by the Trumbull County 911 center. Proactive policing is what happens in between these calls. Once a key staple of proactive policing is a simple patrol. Officers look for suspicious or illegal activity and run licence plates at random to compare to the info listed in various databases. If that particular vehicle is listed as stolen, does not match the description of the car or the owner has a warrant for his / her arrest, a stop will be initiated. A simple traffic violation could lead to an arrest of a notorious criminal, the seizure of drugs or a wide variety of other things.

So what does this have to do with traffic cameras?

Put simply, traffic cams do not pull over speeding cars. As a result, various criminal activities will not be discovered and not enforced. The reason for enforcement of speed limits is for safety purposes, right? If the township is willing to let people carry on their behavior and fine them by mail days later, how much of a hazard were they experiencing in the first place? If a person is presents a danger to the public, immediate action should be taken. That action is something that cameras cannot provide. Also, hand-held radar units used by officers must be checked for proper calibration before use. Can we say the same for the camera’s systems?

I have the utmost respect for police, but I fear that over time, officers will not be as active in patrolling areas covered by cameras except for response to crashes and other calls. Traffic cameras are great for accumulating fine money with minimal effort, but when it comes to serious law enforcement, nothing will beat observant officers performing traffic stops.