Who’s watching you?

Traffic cameras at intersections not taking pictures or video, officials say
Andy Ouriel
Sep 19, 2013


These cameras supposedly can’t record videos nor snap pictures.

But many driving by a few Erie County intersections still worry about someone capturing and storing information about their whereabouts or movement.

Government officials installed at least 26 traffic monitoring cameras tracking vehicular activity at various area intersections, according to local and state data the Register obtained through a public records request.

The cameras hoisted high above certain intersections serve two main purposes:

• Detect when cars stop at intersections, as opposed to in-pavement sensors.

• Transmit data so signal lights can change from red to green. 

“The cameras and their hardware do not have the capability to either record or store video or images,” Erie County project engineer Matt Rogers said.

Rogers referenced the 23 cameras maintained by county officials spread out between four intersections in Perkins Township.

Local taxpayers, meanwhile, spent almost $84,000 on these devices, all of which were installed within the past six years.

Even if the cameras could record video or take pictures, they’re not sophisticated enough to clearly register faces or capture other sensitive information, Rogers said.

“When we have contractors hooking up and configuring cameras during construction, the resolution is fairly low, enough to view cars but not sharp enough to discern faces, read license plates and the like,” Rogers said.

State transportation officials, who installed three cameras in Erie County, also debunked any speculation about their traffic monitoring cameras filming drivers.    “They do not have recording capabilities,” state transportation spokeswoman Christine Myers said.

A camera hoisted atop the Edison Memorial Bridge, technically located on Ottawa County’s side, does record traffic on the bridge. Anyone can watch the video at www.ohgo.com .

Local and state officials said red-light or speed-detection cameras don’t exist in Erie County.

Candid opinions
Seeking input from readers, the Register asked people on Facebook about their opinions on these cameras. Some seemed OK with it.

I’m “not worried at all because I have a clean driving record,” Sean Ramsey wrote. “Go the speed limit and don’t do stupid stuff and no one should have an issue.”

Others wrote the cameras are masquerading as spying machines, secretly intruding into their private lives.

“Anyone that fully trusts what they are told by the local government is delusional,” Ed Liphart wrote.

Security invasion
Concern from Americans about government officials spying on them peaked to an all-time high this summer.

Their worries stem from a leaker revealing the National Security Agency gathers millions of telephone records and intercepts countless email messages from presumably innocent Americans unaffiliated with terrorism.

Lawmakers on both sides continue to bicker on the agency’s importance to national security.

In early August, U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, voted for an amendment to cut off agency funding so officials couldn’t collect telephone records on every American. Jordan represents southern Erie County and portions of Huron and Sandusky counties.

But U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, voted against the same amendment.

The attempt to cut off funding failed narrowly in a U.S. House of Representatives vote.

Kaptur said she favors civil liberties but wanted a more deliberative process for reforming the National Security Agency.

But anyone supporting civil liberties — including politicians, officials and citizens — should become or stay cautious about traffic monitoring cameras, argues Gary Daniels, a Columbus-based American Civil Liberties Union spokesman.

“We will always remain concerned about their use and misuse,” Daniels said.

“Americans are getting assaulted from all sides, including their rights to privacy. Technology is making our lives much less private.”



The tin foil hat brigade will be showing up momentarily


Another non story created by the Register.

The Bizness

Don't you all think it is a bit irrational to think that local government has the resources to monitor these cameras all day? We can look up jobs of every Erie County employee since it is public record.

If you all would rather sit at a red light for 2 minutes because it doesn't know you are there then by all means, ask for these lights to be taken down, however, I appreciate the convenience.

JMOP's picture

Sure. I trust everything the government tells me. They would never lie to us dumb common people.

The Bizness

If you can't trust your peers working in local government then how can you trust the person that sell you your gas at the gas station, the person that sells you your car, the person that makes your dinner, the electricity company?

Do you just live in a constant state of fear?


Re: "how can you trust the person that sell you your gas at the gas station,"

Convoluting the public sector with the private - a fallacious argument.

Restitution is easier with private and also there is competition.

Public has no competition and any restitution for possible wrong doing is a PITA.


Murphy's Law: If it can be misused, it will be. QED.

Lastly, trust must be earned, it isn't given.

Licorice Schtick

In the private sector, privacy abuses are much worse, and there's much less accountability.


Re: "In the private sector,"

Pure sophistry.

TRY suing the govt. for impropriety.


What a crock, I don't believe that for a minute. If you want to believe they don't have the ability to record or take pictures, why did we spend $84,000 for sensors that could of been put in the ground for alot less expensive. DUH, you must think we are fools.




Sorry to jump into this late. Actually, the costs for both video detection and in-pavement sensors (induction loops) are about equal. For example, at Campbell & Strub the cameras cost $29,600; loops would have cost about $26,500. Both detection systems have their advantages and drawbacks. I'm available by email at mrogers (at) eriecounty.oh.gov for anyone who'd like to discuss this in more detail or wants to meet and take a look at the video components inside a signal controller cabinet.


While some look here I can relate. A person in Huron County built a building for some of his small farm equipment & welding stock. His property is off the Twp. road quite some distance. 10acres of woods by said structure also. He went to pay his annual land tax bill. Healthy increase. He asked why. Civil servant stated he put up an existing structure. She stated photos validated increase. (He was glad he didn't get whacked with a building permit.) Talk to those that were in combat. There isn't much room to hide.

The Bizness

Google Earth shows year by year changes.

Erie County Resident

I used to agree with the statement that if your doing nothing wrong you have nothing to worry about... I stand corrected now.

I have right now sitting on my desk a "Bill/Ticket" from the Cleveland PD from one of their wonderful "Red Light" cameras. Date, time, picture of my vehicle, close up of my plate, and recorded speed.

I was seeing a specialist that day and arrived there about 8:30 AM and was there until approx. 6 PM.
"Ticket" says I committed this violation at 11:48 AM. hmmmmmm.
Only people that had access to my vehicle was valet parking where I was at.
Cleveland PD asked for proof. I gave them proof of this time frame.
Answer .. Tough, pay up.
My answer not a chance in h*ll.

These things are nothing but money generators for the groups that use them with no way to contest it.

The Big Dog's back

Won't your Psychiatrist vouch for you?

The Bizness

These cameras are not red light cameras, they are just there to "sense" if a vehicle is waiting at the intersection. That way a light will remain green until there is a need for it to change.


Park your own car next time!


Where was the intersection? On the ones that use inductive loops in the pavement it's easy to get a dismissal.

looking around

I have no doubt some yahoo nut will sit in the cornfields with a high powered rifle with a big scope (probably night vision) in his camo and blast these snope devices off their mounts.

2cents's picture

LOL, too bad there are not a lot of corn fields in most cities. Well maybe Detroit : )

Texx Reloader

Traffic monitoring devices do help traffic flow. However, it is not stated these cameras can be quickly upgraded to a more sophisticated resolution relatively easy. Furthermore, there are other devices of a non-video nature which can do the same job. I can never tell whether government is just so lazy and staffed with people of no imagination whatever, or they are truly trying to hide things. I think it is a matter of both. First, you have to have understanding, then you have to care, then you have to do something about it. People are understandably concerned about the invasion of privacy. At the very least the installation of these devices could be handled with a little more concern given in the direction of the portion of the population which is uncomfortable with them. The only time government: federal, state, or local shows they have any ability to address public concerns is around election, levy, and bond time. It is pretty obvious the mentality of Washington is a trickle down phenomenon.