Wichita Wichita police officers no longer need to see drivers break traffic laws in the Old Town section of the city in order to write traffic tickets.
The Wichita Eagle reports the city has installed 97 cameras in the core of Old Town, a business, arts and entertainment district.
A staff member monitors the cameras from an office in city hall. If a traffic violation is seen, a nearby officer is called and the officer can track down the car and write a ticket.
“I hope people don’t perceive this as ‘Big Brother,’” Wichita police Sgt. Kelly O’Brien said. “Officers are monitoring public places where you see it from public viewing. It’s just a way for officers to enhance their abilities to protect the community and improve traffic safety and also improve officer safety.”
But O’Brien knows many people won’t appreciate the new program, noting that even his wife and daughter weren’t necessarily supportive of camera-based traffic enforcement.
The camera locations were chosen based on the number of violations, accidents and traffic complaints received in those areas. Traffic concerns are the top complaint the police department receives, O’Brien said.
“People are concerned about specific intersections, and it’s a priority,” he said. “Public safety is a priority, and this is one more approach in enhancing the efforts to raise awareness to the concerns in those areas.”
The cameras currently are a pilot project that started Oct. 18. Although the cameras are always recording but staffers currently monitoring them only from 9 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 3 p.m.
On the first day, Oct. 18, staffers reported 53 violations from 1 to 3 p.m. Fifty traffic citations and five warnings were issued.
From 9 to 11 a.m. Nov. 2, 88 violations were witnessed, with 55 citations issued and four warnings given.
The camera enforcement is not occurring daily, O’Brien said, but he said violations have decreased as the public becomes more aware of the cameras, although he didn’t have the statistics to prove that.
O’Brien said special camera enforcements are planned during the holidays and when drunken driving may occur.
The department can store the recordings for 400 days, and the tapes can be used in court to verify that a violation occurred.