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McAllister: More Warwick Traffic Cameras Need Council Vote

Warwick City Hall
Warwick City Hall.

WARWICK, RI — While Warwick Police research cost and plans to install more traffic cameras in city school zones and traffic lights, City Council President Steve McAllister says any such effort requires as-yet unrealized Council approval, but a precedent has been set.

“Yesterday, Mayor Picozzi announced Warwick is currently “out to bid” for traffic cameras.  I would like Warwick residents to know that no decisions or vote has taken place regarding these cameras.  Only a vote by the city council can authorize the purchase of these cameras,” McAllister wrote in an email statement on the issue Tuesday.

The Warwick City Council previously approved 10 traffic cameras throughout the City, and a policy governing them, in 2022.

“Warwick is currently out to bid for traffic cameras in the city. If passed by the City Council, the cameras will be installed in some school zones and on some traffic lights,” Picozzi wrote to Facebook followers late Monday afternoon.

According to page 9 of the bid posted to the City of Warwick website, “The City intends to have both intersection safety cameras and speed photo enforcement cameras for the purpose of increasing public safety through the enforcement of traffic laws associated with speeding and red-light traffic signals. The goal of the Warwick Police Department is to reduce the number of collisions and related injuries within the City of Warwick.”

The bid requests plans for furnishing, installing, implementing and maintaining a “turnkey automated traffic and speed camera enforcement system.”

Prior Traffic Cameras, Policy, Established in 2022

After registration plate cameras were installed without notice in Cranston, Pawtucket and Woonsocket in 2021, Warwick City Councilors took up the question in spring 2022 on the request of Police Chief Col. Brad Connor. Connor sought a bid exception, meaning the camera contract wouldn’t follow the city’s guidelines for bids, because Flock Safety is the only company in Rhode Island that provides the cameras.

The Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) opposed the plan, saying that “[t]he capability that these cameras have to indiscriminately track when and where drivers go can create an oppressive system of government surveillance in a free society.”

Connor said the system of 10 traffic cameras, paid for over a two year contract at $27,500 for the first year and $25,000 for the second, would only be used to record license plates, and that the images would be saved for 30 days before being deleted. He said the system is not intended to be used to write traffic tickets.

Warwick councilors voted to approve the policy governing their use in September 2022, then voted in October to approve the camera contract with Flock. Citizens raised concerns about the traffic cameras prior to the September 2022 policy vote and also during several hearings about using the cameras themselves prior to that.

During the Feb. 23, 2022 City Council meeting, councilors heard from  Professor Marc Genest of Warwick, Ph.D., professor of strategy at NWC in Newport, RI, expert on information warfare,  assuring them the cameras would trade Warwick residents’ civil liberties for a dubious promise of increased safety. He warned the city’s relationship with Flock would be the first in a series of steps toward the sort of totalitarian state China now enforces with the technology.

“You are on constant surveillance 24-7. I know these are small steps. But with small steps come bigger steps. And you have got to look at the long-term consequences of this. And it’s very, very dangerous to do so. You are literally sacrificing the civil liberties of your residents for just a tiny, tiny bit more security. And then what you’re doing, is your placing all of that information in a private security firm. Not a government security firm, but a private security firm.”

Warwick Traffic Camera Bid Details

The bid also requests that the proposed system mail tickets to traffic violators, and include a mobile version of the system the Warwick Police Department may deploy to specific areas as circumstances require. Additionally the system should:

  • Capture images of the violation as well as a color video clip which captures the signal cycling through all phases of the violation. The license plate number and details shall be clearly visible in the images.
  • The system shall have the capability to compensate for the effects of license plate covers and the effects of reflective material on license plates.
  • The system must imprint violation information on the image at the point-of-capture. Information specific to the violation must include, but is not limited to: location, date, vehicle speed, duration of the red phase, duration of the amber phase and elapse time between images.
  • Provide the ability to download a video of any accidents at monitored intersections within minutes of a request by authorized personnel.
  • The System should be capable of being flexibly configured to address the specific number of lanes to be enforced at each direction of travel at the site, including straight through violations, left-turn, double left-turn, right-on-red violations, simultaneous violations and consecutive violations by multiple vehicles Cameras shall have the ability to operate effectively during all lighting and weather conditions, including extreme heat and cold, fog, rain, snow, high humidity and power outage.
  • Cameras and associated equipment shall be enclosed in lockable, weather and vandal resistant housing.
  • Photographs taken in darkness and low lighting conditions shall not be illuminated using floodlights.
  • All violation photos and accompanying videos must be capable of secure storage and transmission, and capable of maintaining a secure chain of evidence.

Technology requirements for the bids include:

  • System can capture both concurrent and simultaneous violations across multiple lanes
  • System that identifies the violation by lane. No misidentification of violation
  • System that can monitor multiple red light phases including left turn, straight through and right turn as well as No Turn on Red.
  • System which can capture low speed red light violations.
  • Detection system that uses a mapping radar system for both red light and speed enforcement. Laser or video detection is not preferred
  • System must have some form of secondary speed verification. Second speed sensor or time over distance capability  Hi-resolution still cameras (20MP or greater) with flash appropriate
  • Hi-definition 24/7 1080p or greater video that is streaming and customer recall for at least 30 days on demand
Rob Borkowski
Author: Rob Borkowski

Rob has worked as reporter and editor for several publications, including The Kent County Daily Times and Coventry Courier, before working for Gatehouse in MA then moving home with Patch Media. Now he's publisher and editor of Contact him at [email protected] with tips, press releases, advertising inquiries, and concerns.

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