Cameras mounted on street sweepers

July 9, 2008 3:50:21 PM PDT
Big Brother may soon be hitting the streets in Chicago. A new ordinance is being considered to outfit the city's fleet of street sweepers with cameras that can ticket illegally parked cars.The program is already being tested, but no tickets have been issued. The cameras are a cost-effective way to ensure drivers allow crews to keep city streets clean, according to Mayor Daley.

Right now there are six cameras on street sweepers. Eventually all 60 will be equipped. It's the latest way the City of Chicago is extending the long lens of the law.

Big Brother may soon be riding shotgun in street sweepers. For years those who operate the clunky contraptions have complained about people who ignore no parking signs, causing the cleaners to do a spotty job of sucking up debris.

"It isn't a big public safety issue. It's more of a cleanliness issue. We are trying to clean the street," said Commissioner Mike Picardi, Chicago Streets and Sanitation.

If the City Council approves the measure in the coming weeks, drivers who ignore street cleaning parking restrictions may find a $50 parking ticket waiting in their mailbox.

Right now, six sweepers are equipped with the automatic digital photography equipment. They work a lot like the red light cameras installed at dozens of intersections in the city. The cameras snap a picture of an illegally parked car's license plate as well as the adjacent no parking sign.

"If you live on a block, and nobody moves their car, and the sweeper goes by that day, that curb lane will be dirty for the next two months until we get back there again," said Picardi. "We're not out trying to generate revenue; we're trying to clean curb lanes."

Revenue from red light cameras is at record levels. The city anticipates collecting nearly $50 million this year. Police cameras have become a fixture in many neighborhoods. Now, Streets and San is joining the technology revolution and may eventually equip snow plows with cameras to catch people who leave their cars on snow routes.

"It's really prevention. Cameras prevent more crime more incidents, that's what you're doing," said the mayor.

Mayor Daley likes cameras because they're a cost-effective way to free up police officers to focus on crime.


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