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Smile, you're on school zone speed cameras again

Mike Desmond / WBFO News

As you drive around Buffalo, watch your speed, because the cameras around public and private schools are back in action, and could lead to a ticket and fine if you go more than 15 mph.
From a program to make kids going and coming from school a little safer from speeding cars, the cameras have become something of a political football because of missteps by the private company that owns and manages the cameras, and because of some vocal complaints in the community about the cameras and fines, part of a much larger debate about traffic fines, fees and punishments in a poverty-ridden city. The cameras are spread across 18 areas of the city, with most on major traffic arteries like Main Street, Delaware Avenue, Jefferson Avenue and Elmwood Avenue.

City Parking Commissioner Kevin Helfer said he does talk to Buffalo Police about what the cameras show about the behavior of drivers.

"We really don't have a particular school where there's a particular problem in term of compliance, but what we do know is Bailey Avenue -- which a lot of people complain about speeding in general, not just in the school zone -- where the school zone is at Buffalo Promise Neighborhood and the beacons are flashing when the Buffalo Promise Neighborhood is in session, we know that our compliance is the highest," Helfer said.

Helfer said he fields the complaints of speeding school zone drivers made through the city's 311 system. He also repeated a warning from Principal Mark Mattle, whose St. Joseph's University School is located in University Heights.

"He basically said, if we don't do this, somebody is going to get killed in that intersection, right there at St. Joe's at Main and Heath," Helfer said. "Who knows it better than the principals, the school teachers, the children, the parents. They know it very well because they observe it, see it every day."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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