Monday, March 9, 2015

Buying our electoral love by losing (for now, at least) the traffic cameras?

It seems we’re now in a situation where we have to think to ourselves when we see one of those cameras erected at an intersection atop a traffic signal – does it work, or not?

For the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune both reported that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is slowly, but surely, having those cameras that have the ability to capture pictures of traffic violations so that tickets can be issued without a cop present removed.

FOR THE TIME being, many of those cameras remain in place, but they’re no longer programmed to take pictures. They’re merely junk accumulating around the city.

I expect eventually they will be removed. But those non-functioning cameras are now the equivalent of those empty squad cars the Illinois State Police occasionally park (sometimes, they put a uniformed dummy inside) meant to make you think there’s an officer watching – when there isn’t.

People now can see those cameras, give themselves a quick check to see if they’re exceeding the speed limit, then slow up if necessary. They can make us think and police ourselves, rather than having to have a police officer present to intimidate us into driving more safely.

And for the mayor, it makes him appear as though he’s listening to the public, many of whom detest the idea of those cameras being present trying to catch us in a moment of carelessness so we can be fined a hundred or so dollars.

IT GIVES THE perception that the only reason for having the cameras is to squeeze a few more dollars out of us, rather than having any concern for the public safety.

Personally, I’m inclined to agree with the viewpoint I once heard expressed by a now-retired suburban police chief who said he didn’t sympathize with anyone who got caught by such a camera – there are signs erected letting people know exactly where the cameras are.

If a motorist is dumb enough to ignore those warnings and still commit a traffic offense within the range of a camera, it’s their own fault!

If anything, I have a bigger problem with the idea of real-live police officers sitting in a parked car at some strategically-chosen point for the sole purpose of trying to catch motorists whizzing by in commission of some traffic violation.

WHENEVER I SEE someone pulled over to the side of the road with a squad car flashing its lights right behind it, I have to wonder why that officer didn’t have anything better to do with his (or her) time.

And is this a community where the local police are under some strict quota that they’re obligated to issue so many citations – no matter now illegitimate they are?

If anything, I can see how installing these cameras allows for police to be put to better use.

But the public largely disagrees (not that I was all that enthused the one time I was caught by a video camera committing an alleged offense in making a right turn too soon).

SO EMANUEL APPEARS to have given the order to turn off some of the cameras. They likely will be removed by the city eventually – or else someone is bound to come along and steal the equipment, which I’m sure has some significant value in terms of salvage.

Emanuel will want to take credit for the camera removal prior to the April 7 run-off election, particularly since mayoral challenger Jesus Garcia has already pledged his first act (if elected) will be the removal of all the cameras.

This is just enough of a superficial issue that people will be motivated to use it when deciding how to cast their ballot next month.

The only question I have (and I’m sure Emanuel’s people would say I’m being paranoid for even thinking it) is to wonder how many of those now-shuttered cameras will be turned back on come April 8? Just a thought!


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