Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Legislation Passed for Ticketing School Bus Stop Arm Cameras

By Jerry Cornfield, Herald Writer
OLYMPIA -- There's a good chance somewhere in Snohomish County today a school bus will stop on a two-way street to let students off and a car will blow by, putting the lives of those youngsters in danger.

At that moment, bus drivers can jot down the license plate and report it to police, but most are too busy trying to warn students not to cross.

Now, a bill motoring through the Legislature might help by allowing school buses to be equipped with automated cameras that snap pictures of the offending vehicle's license plate and forward them to law enforcement.

"This was dreamed up by the bus drivers," said Heather Meier, communications coordinator for the Public School Employees Association, which represents 4,000 school bus drivers statewide. "Their intention is to save our children."

Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, who sponsored the legislation, said he's seen cars zoom around the bus his son rides to school even when the stop paddle is extended.

"As a father, it's frustrating to see it," he said. "People are violating the law. People are not getting caught and this is about protecting our kids."

His bill is a new angle in the debate surrounding use of the so-called red-light cameras. And thus far it's stirred up far less political heat than measures in Mukilteo, Monroe and other cities to curb deployment of basically the same cameras.

The legislation sailed through the Senate, passing 49-0 on March 4. The House Transportation Committee approved it last week with little debate.

No one testified against the bill in legislative hearings. Prominent opponents of the cameras said that's because lawmakers moved it through too quickly.

"We would have been there," said Nick Sherwood, the Puyallup co-founder of

He's watching it closely now and contends the issue of needing cameras to boost safety is overblown. Sherwood cites statistics from the National Highway Safety Commission that 21 out of 30,797 traffic fatalities in 2009 involved a school bus. Of those, he said, 13 were caused by the bus driver slamming into pedestrians.

"We're clearly solving a problem we don't have," he said, noting no students have been killed in this state by a vehicle passing a stopped school bus.

Meier disagreed.

"We shouldn't have to wait for that to happen to move forward with a solution when a solution is already here," she said.

Rep. Marko Liias, D-Edmonds, who co-sponsored a bill outlawing so-called red-light cameras, successfully pushed to double the fines for those passing school buses illegally.

"I think that folks should be wrung by their neck for driving past these stop signs. It puts our children in danger," he said in the transportation committee hearing.

Under Substitute Senate Bill 5540, school districts may install automated safety cameras on any or all buses in its fleet. These would basically be the same cameras used by cities to catch speeders and those running red lights.

The legislation requires a district's board vote to approve their use in order to ensure the public can weigh in beforehand. It does not put it to the district's voters.

Cameras would snap shots of the license plate and the registered owner would receive a notice of violation in the mail. A violation would be treated like a parking infraction with a $394 fine -- essentially double the fine for an infraction in a school zone.

At least half the money collected must be spent on "school safety zone projects" with the remainder spent to cover law enforcement costs and equipment rental. Districts cannot use those funds to buy pencils or paper, or pay for teacher salaries, Hobbs said.

Mukilteo's Tim Eyman, author of the Mukilteo and Monroe initiatives, said this is about helping cash-strapped school districts make money.

"It's a brand new product line by red-light camera companies to hook school districts on the ticketing revenue the same way the cities are hooked on the ticketing revenue," Eyman said.

Officials at Everett and Edmonds school districts said there's no plan to rush out and get cameras if this becomes law.

"It's not a critical need for us," said Mary Waggoner, director of communications for the Everett School District. "We have such a good relationship with our law enforcement that if we do have an area where there is a problem, we tell them and they are out there."

To read SB 5540 go to

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield AT

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bus Camera Captures Crash in NM

Friday, March 11, 2011

Stop Arm Pilot Program to Begin

SEEKONK - A single Seekonk school bus will soon receive a new “violation detection system” after the school committee voted to accept a proposal from SmartBus Live Monday.

The school committee first heard from Daniel Angeli of SmartBus Live on a proposal to make Seekonk part of a Massachusetts pilot program in February. SmartBus Live installs cameras on buses to take photographs of drivers who pass buses illegally. When a school bus comes to a stop to pick up or drop off children it is illegal to pass it.

SmartBus Live has currently been working with school districts in Rhode Island for the last two years. Mr. Angeli said the external camera system offers a 180 degree panoramic view of up to four lanes of traffic. At the SmartBus Live command center, employees monitor the video feed every time a school bus stops. If they see someone illegally passing the bus, that bus is flagged and the information is processed and forwarded to local enforcement who can decide to ticket the individual.

SmartBus Live does not charge the district for any aspect of the service. They make their money through the issuing of tickets. In Rhode Island, 75 percent of the revenue from these tickets goes to the company while 12.5 percent goes to the state and another 12.5 percent to the local municipality.

In Massachusetts, however, legislation has yet to be passed making it legal to use this type of traffic enforcement on school buses, though a proposal is currently pending with the General Court. Mr. Angeli said the camera placed on a Seekonk bus, and another already in place Medford, will be used to gather information about the frequency of motorists passing stopped school buses.

Locally, it’s a pattern of behavior that Seekonk School Department Transportation Director Betsy Frey said she hears about from bus drivers “just about everyday.”

In the end, the school committee voted 4-0 to support the pilot program. School committee member David Abbott was not in attendance for the meeting.

In the event that the pending legislation is approved this session, Mr. Angeli said the company would be eyeing a “full roll out” for this September. In Seekonk, Mr. Angeli said a “full roll out” wouldn’t mean cameras on every bus in Seekonk, but “three or four” additional ones.

Bus Cameras Not Routinely Checked - District Considering Hiring Staff

Tennessee school buses seem to be a breeding ground for violence. From bruises to broken bones, school bus surveillance cameras should be able to capture it all on tape.

In some instances, that just isn't the case.

Rutherford County school district leaders are now considering hiring a person to perform routine checks of cameras on buses.

A 15-year-old boy was standing bus No. 184 Friday morning when his backpack bumped into another student as the driver made a turn. According to sheriff's officials, the second student got out of his seat and starting assaulting the teen. When the first boy's 16-year-old sister stood up and shouted for him to stop, she, too, was punched in the face, officials said. None of the incident was caught on tape.

"Once we got into the investigation, we realized the camera was not working," said Rutherford County schools spokesman James Evans. "There was a hard drive issue. There was a malfunction with the hard drive on the bus camera, so it did not record anything."

Evans said there is no routine maintenance policy in place to ensure the cameras are working.

"The camera system, the ones we bought, are only a few years old," Evans said. "There have not been a need for a preventative maintenance schedule as of yet."

Another reason school leaders said they don't have a preventative maintenance plan in place is they don't own the buses. They use independent contractors instead.

But there will be some changes. The school district is now considering hiring an IT tech to perform routine checks of the cameras. Bus drivers will also be given an informational flier that will help them determine if the cameras are working properly. The camera hard drive aboard bus 184 has been replaced and is now working.

But Chris Smith said that's a little too late for his children. His daughter has a broken nose and dislocated jaw. His son has a severely bruised cheek.

"It's definitely too late," Smith said. "Then they have to go off eyewitness accounts and, like I said, they can vary."

Smith said another problem is the buses are overcrowded. When you have students standing, he said, that's a danger in itself.

"The bus drivers have been having them stand in the aisle the whole time they are driving," Smith said. "If there was an accident or something like that, that can't be safe."

If a new position is added to maintain the bus cameras, school officials said, it will likely require funding. School leaders will discuss funding the new position during the budget meetings that will begin later this semester.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Safety Vision Acquires ICOP

Safety Vision, LLC Acquires ICOP: Combination Bolsters Leadership Position in Mobile Video Solutions for Law Enforcement
Safety Vision, a leading provider of mobile video and fleet automation solutions, today announced the acquisition of ICOP Digital Inc. of Lenexa, Kansas, a leading provider of Tier I mobile video solutions for Law Enforcement, Fire and EMS markets, worldwide. The combination immediately vaults Safety Vision into a leadership position in market share and technology delivery for the law enforcement market.

“This is a great day for Safety Vision and the ICOP customer base,” said Bruce Smith, CEO of Safety Vision. “As a competitor, we have admired ICOP’s technology and growth for many years. When the opportunity presented itself to not only acquire a great technology company but also talented personnel, we rolled up our sleeves and started working on making it happen. Today is the culmination of many months of hard work by dedicated Safety Vision and ICOP personnel doing their utmost to serve our loyal customer base.”

Since 1993, Safety Vision has grown to establish leadership positions in mobile video solutions for the transit, school bus and collision avoidance markets. “The acquisition of ICOP enables Safety Vision to focus and grow the law enforcement segment of our business with a robust, proven technology platform and a great customer base,” added Smith. The acquisition is further bolstered by a core group of technology, sales and support professionals from ICOP who will join the Safety Vision family.

Together, ICOP and Safety Vision have already begun implementing the transition plan to integrate products, personnel and back-office systems. “Our goal is to make the transition process as smooth as possible for our combined customer base while retaining the superior customer service that has been the hallmark of our brand. Accordingly, our first priority will be to ensure existing customers are taken care of in terms of service, repair and order fulfillment,” said Bruce Smith.

With this acquisition, ICOP becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of Safety Vision LLC and will spearhead Safety Vision’s Law Enforcement Group. “For nearly two decades, Safety Vision has been a pioneer in deploying mobile video and fleet automation solutions for diverse markets such as mass transit, pupil transportation, law enforcement and commercial fleets. The acquisition of ICOP bolsters our market share and technology leadership in the law enforcement market while providing great talent and an international footprint to continue our growth,” added Bruce Smith, CEO of Safety Vision. “We welcome the new ICOP personnel and customer base to the Safety Vision family and look forward to the opportunity to serve them throughout this transition and many years into the future.”

Milwaukee Co. Bus Driver Beaten - Caught on Transit Bus Video

Milwaukee police need your help identifying a man who beat up a Milwaukee County Transit System bus driver. The incident happened on February 21st and was caught on camera.
The surveillance video shows the suspect stopping next to the driver as he's about to get off the bus. He hits the driver in the face and then again a few more times when the driver is on the floor of the bus.

The suspect then got off the bus near 35th and Wells in Milwaukee.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Police Dashboard Cameras Go HD

The Celina and Frisco police departments are now using HD cameras in their patrol cars.

Celina, with their eight patrol cars, is the first police department in North Texas to put the HD cameras in all of their police cars.

When on patrol, Cpl. Shea Scott can control the new camera via a touch-screen monitor. Everything captured on the high-resolution video is automatically saved.

The clearer picture will help police with both catching criminals and prosecuting them, according to police.

"It also helps in court, when individuals are looking at DWI suspects when they're swaying and have poor balance that the jury doesn't normally get to see. The high definition picks up on all that," said Scott. "It's very clear. It's astonishing once you can go back and watch the video tape and be able to see the differences between what we used to have and what we have now."

The device is made by Watch Guard, a company in Allen. It allows police to go back in time. The camera records video even before the officer tells it to.

"The HD gives them the video that they didn't initially think that they needed but it also gives them the ability to analyze the video and identify faces or license plates and lead to solving crimes," said Jason Stuczynski, technical sales director.

The video is sent wirelessly to the police station, where the officer can pull it up on a computer and watch it in true HD.

Each camera costs about $5,000. But a clear picture for evidence can save taxpayers a lot more money in the long run, according to police.

The Celina Police Department was able to pay for the HD camera system with a federal grant.

Several more North Texas police agencies plan to visit Watch Guard Thursday to learn more about the product.

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