Iowa Camera Program Could Aid Police, Traffic Authorities

Officials in the city of Waterloo are considering a traffic camera program that would not only support daily traffic monitoring, but in investigative situations too.

by Tim Jamison, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier / April 2, 2018
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(TNS) — WATERLOO, Iowa — A consulting firm has helped the city develop plans for more traffic cameras which also could be used in police investigations.

GBA Systems Integrators, of Rock Island, Ill., created a master plan detailing more fiber optics cables and equipment to connect video cameras around the city to a central monitoring location in the Public Works Building.

While the plan is designed to give engineers more eyes on traffic movements at intersections, other communities with robust traffic camera systems, including Dubuque, have shared the feeds with law enforcement investigating traffic accidents and crimes.

“Most cities … they record these and they watch the video as needed, for instance there’s an accident or a shooting at an intersection,” said Waterloo Traffic Engineer Mohammad Elahi.

GBA’s Doug Pershall said some cities also use the backbone created by the traffic camera system to provide security cameras at schools, public buildings and critical utilities.

“The fiber optics network will allow the traffic department to use advanced traffic management systems like traffic adaptive systems,” Pershall said. “It will allow them to observe signals to ensure they’re working properly, and it will allow them to share video with other city agencies and communication capabilities with other city agencies.

“Right now we’re building it as a traffic network,” he said. “What we’ve seen in other cities is: you start to build it as a traffic network and then the other agencies get a chance to use it.”

City officials said the traffic monitoring and public safety cameras should not be confused with traffic enforcement cameras, which issue speeding and red-light violation tickets to motorists.

The city of Waterloo has a contract with Gatso USA to install traffic enforcement cameras in the city should the devices survive legislative and legal challenges. But no stationary traffic enforcement cameras have been installed in Waterloo to date.

Waterloo does have about 25 traffic monitoring cameras in place at intersections.

Footage from those cameras can be reviewed by law enforcement investigating incidents, but they are not calibrated to measure speed or issue traffic tickets.

Elahi said several current projects, most of them financed with state and federal grants, are helping fill in the fiber optics gaps in Waterloo while adding about 115 more traffic monitoring cameras.

Those projects include work on San Marnan Drive near Crossroads Center, running north up the U.S. Highway 218 corridor toward downtown; adaptive traffic systems being added by the Iowa Department of Transportation’s reconstruction of U.S. Highway 63; planned safety improvements on Fifth and Sixth streets through downtown; and the University Avenue reconstruction project.

Elahi said the GBA Systems Integrators plan provides a “road map for smart expansion” as future traffic grant opportunities come up.

Councilmen Jerome Amos Jr. and Chris Shimp are serving on a committee with city staff to implement the traffic camera program.

Officials said it could take up to seven years to implement fully the recommendations from GBA Systems Integrators. But the effort hinges heavily on grants and funding available to complete the work.

©2018 Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (Waterloo, Iowa) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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