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Will public give green light to red light cameras?

National Public Radio

Will the public give the green light to red light cameras in Buffalo? The Common Council wants to know during a public hearing scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday.

The Common Council is studying red light cameras. According to state law, the city can install the cameras, but has never chosen to do so.

This is in contrast with Rochester, which had them for six years and shut them down at the end of last year. Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said the cameras hit the poor too hard.

The plan is surfacing again because of several hit-and-run accidents in the last month. University District Councilmember Rasheed Wyatt, who will lead Thursday's hearing, said the cameras could deal with the "Wild West" atmosphere he perceives on city streets.

"We'll hear from the public what their concerns may be," Wyatt said. "We also have a woman that's going to come in and talk about the new technology that's available and how it could be useful in helping curb some of the bad behaviors in our district. I've said over and over again, I think our city is very dangerous as far as traffic, and I'm hopeful that this will help create a safer environment in our city."

Mayor Byron Brown seemed to lean against the issue when asked by WBFO, but said he is leaving the decision to council members.

"Now that this is being proposed again by members of the City Council, it is the case that a number of communities that had red light cameras have actually removed the cameras for different concerns," Brown said. "So I am sure that the council members who are looking at this will take those concerns into consideration."

Wyatt has said they might give police better pictures of cars and drivers in the case of accidents than the city's regular network of surveillance cameras, often far from the crash and the windshield.

"It's just dangerous," he told WBFO. "I've heard from residents. I've heard from block clubs. And I don't know if you were here several months ago when I submitted a resolution regarding some traffic issues, I asked [Buffalo Police] Commissioner Derenda to put some traffic folks in the community. It helped for a second, but then it went back to the old way."

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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