Members of the Maple Avenue Group (MARG) want Hartford to join the growing number of U.S. cities that use video cameras to catch motorists who run red lights, speed and commit other infractions. Once a violation is recorded by the camera, the motorist would automatically be mailed a ticket.
But MARG President Hyacinth Yennie said that in order for Hartford to install such cameras, the State of Connecticut would have to pass new legislation allowing their use. At last Thursday’s MARG meeting, Yennie confronted State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and asked him if he would support such legislation.
“Absolutely and unequivocally,” said Blumenthal, “I would support it 100 percent if the police say it will work.” However, he added, “There will be some objections, of course, based on the rights of the individual...but when law enforcement is at stake, those rights can be constrained if there is a true need and if they [the cameras] are targeted directly toward speeding or some other unlawful activity.”
Several local residents who spoke at the MARG meeting said speeding has become a serious problem in the neighborhood and the City of Hartford has to do more to deal with the issue.
However, Kevin Burnham, Chief Traffic Engineer for the City of Hartford, said that speeding is a problem all over the city and that installing speed bumps, stops signs and other traffic-calming measures wherever they are requested would be a very costly undertaking. For that reason, the City of Hartford Department of Public Works is looking into the use of cameras as one option. Burnham said his department is currently doing studies to determine what streets have the highest incidence of speeding and other motor vehicle violations.
“We’re pulling up the [temporary] speed mats and construction [of new traffic-calming measures] has been stopped for the winter,” said Burnham. “We’re using this time to take stock and see what our priorities are.”
Several neighborhood residents at the meeting said that Douglas Street in particular has a serious problem with speeding, especially as a day care center and the South End Senior Center are so close by. One speaker said, “When they made the street one way, I thought things would get better but now, 25 years later, the problem still hasn’t been solved.”
Burnham responded that making streets one way is not a good solution and usually increase the incidence of speeding, rather than decreasing it.
Hartford Police Community Service Officer Carlo Faienza said that, as a temporary measure, the HPD could set up periodic checkpoints to catch speeders on Douglas Street.
A resident from Mountford Street also reported a rise in crime in her area at last Thursday’s MARG meeting.
Hartford Police Lieutenant Edwin Dailey responded to the resident by saying, “We are actively working in your neighborhood and as a matter of fact I checked around your house with a flashlight Tuesday night.”
Daily went on to say that because the price of scrap metal is rising, there has been a rise in the theft of copper piping from Hartford homes and businesses.
“This type of material [copper] is very hard to trace...the trucks unload the stuff directly into a melting device,” Dailey said.
Another topic at Thursday MARG meeting was police response and follow-up to service calls, particularly on noise complaint and other quality of life issues.
Dailey advised resident to, “Explain to the dispatcher that you want the [responding] officer to call you back and let you know what happened. If the problem continues, ask for a sergeant to call you.”