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Boston city councilors to consider traffic cameras, full-time traffic cops to reduce road mayhem

City Council President Andrea Campbell (Dorchester) and other councilors say they're fed up with death and destruction on Boston streets caused by texting Massholes and other bad drivers, and want to look at new methods to stop them.

Among the possibilities raised by Campbell: Cameras mounted at key intersections and along major roadways that could catch people barrelling through red lights and going way too fast and then generate traffic tickets. Also, it might be time to look at creating a BPD unit dedicated to full-time traffic enforcement, possibly staffed by officers in different uniforms than the cops who now deal with traffic miscreants only on down time from fighting other crimes.

The council agreed yesterday to let Campbell schedule a hearing with Boston police and transportation officials to go over more aggressive potential steps to reduce traffic-related fatalities and crashes.

In recent years, the city has taken several steps to try to calm traffic, including reducing the speed limit on most roads from 30 to 25 m.p.h., but without enforcement, "it's useless," she said. Bostonians should not have to be "in fear of your life when you're crossing the street driving down the street, riding your bike down the street," she said.

She added that, in conversations with officers in her Dorchester district, "many officers feel a little bit frustrated," because they want to do more traffic enforcement but are often pulled away by more pressing crime issues.

Campbell acknowledged that traffic cameras might require action by the state legislature. And she promised "a robust conversation" on issues related to increasing surveillance of public spaces and the impact on lower-income drivers. But, she continued, "people are dying, so this is urgent."

Providence, RI, issued nearly 40,000 traffic tickets - and brought in $1.8 million in new revenue - in the first five months of this year after turning on cameras aimed at catching speeders. It also created a political firestorm and sparked a federal lawsuit by motorists who said the cameras violated a state law requiring signs warning drivers of nearby cameras.

Councilor Matt O'Malley (Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury), whose district sports several streets with traffic-slowing "speed tables," welcomed Campbell's proposals, but said experience in Houston and Dallas after they installed intersection cameras showed they created a new problem: Drivers hitting their brakes after spotting a camera were getting rear ended by less attentive drivers behind them.

O'Malley suggested the city look at "virtual speed bumps" - markings at intersections that at first glance look like something in the road a motorist would want to go more slowly over.

Officials in Cambridge recently rejected the idea of painting intersections to make motorist think they were about to slam into long concrete blocks, saying it might make some drivers swerve off the road. London is experimenting with less radical optical illusions to slow drivers.

Councilor Lydia Edwards (Charlestown, East Boston, North End), said any sort of increased police presence would help. She said conditions at Sullivan Square have gotten a bit better simply by having a detail cop there. And she said it might be time to consider asking developers of large new projects in the city to chip in to help with the traffic problems their developments are contributing to.

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Comments

Require Uber/Lift/Ridshare services to have a commercial license in MA, and make them yankable if too many complaints/tickets.

Really tired of NH/RI and South Methol asshats trying to push through large groups of peds against their red lights.

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Voting closed 49

If someone gets a ticket while driving for rideshare, bill the rideshare company 3x the fee for having unsafe drivers.

Give these companies an incentive to only retain safe drivers.

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Voting closed 36

Right now, Lyft allows up to three moving violations in the past three years. That's a pretty damn crappy driving record, even for people who drive full time.

I imagine though that even this policy might leave out good drivers who racked up multiple violations for one accident, or people who frequently get pulled over in small towns that don't like the way they look.

I wonder if they could use something more objective. Maybe those OBD devices that monitor rapid deceleration? Or have Lyft/Uber adopt a no-tolerance policy for things like letting people off in traffic, pulling over where prohibited, driving in bike lanes, running lights or making illegal turns. Send out unmarked cars with dashcams and ban drivers who do any of these things. If Uber or Lyft got to this first and rebranded themselves as the rideshare that follows laws, they could probably do really well.

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Voting closed 14

Are absolutely useless around here.

Rapid decelleration is defined in cornfield terms - you can be a good driver and not hit anything or get a ticket in 30 years, and those things will say that you are a bad driver because they are designed to monitor drivers in Bootsuck KY.

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Voting closed 8

You still need actual enforcement for that to happen, though. I've seen plenty of rideshare drivers blow through lights or stop illegally to pick up/drop off and not get ticketed, even when it happens in front of police.

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But what will it do to curb the menace of cyclists running red lights? How can we ticket them if they don't have license plates for the cameras to capture?

Edit: /s for those thinking I'm serious :)

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Voting closed 50

They might be annoying because you sometimes have to drive slower when they are in front of you, but that should be pretty rare and once they have space they move to the right 99% of the time.

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Voting closed 37

Maybe the sarcasm wasn't that obvious despite my posting history but yes I agree, I was trying to beat the trolls that exclaim "but I saw a cyclist run a red light once, issuing licenses and plates will stop that just like it does for cars!"

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Voting closed 29

I usually avoid the bike/ped/driver threads so I don't pay too much attention to who supports what.

But you do have Kinipio on your side so I might vote to ban bikes just because of him.

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I think I'll have to work a bit harder to get to Kinipio's level!

But I really appreciate hearing someone with knowledge of law enforcement state the obvious, bikes aren't the problem. Thank you!

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But you have previously admitted to running red lights, so maybe you are a PART or the problem?

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But I do love how mad you are after proving you wrong on about 10 posts in a row? I guess you didn't lie this time, so you are getting better. Your mom would be proud.

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OK Pete, or is it spin? Because my comment was in reply to spins post. You know, the cyclist who has admitted to running red lights. I bet spins mom is proud of you tho!

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As in, you won't find be blowing through on coming traffic and causing cars to swerve out of control. Its usually a slow rolling stop through pedestrian signals.

Heard any reports of cyclists killing anyone? Or jumping a curb and crashing into Martys?

Didn't think so.

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Voting closed 16

There was another post about this guy in Dorchester who walked across the street with his head down and got hit by a car. I said I never would keep my head down because that is stupid no matter what and then the Victim blamer police (headed by this D-bag) came out.

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No worries Pete!

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I'm obviously a huge pedestrian/cyclist safety advocate; I walk and bike most places. But there's this faction where if you mention that pedestrians shouldn't walk out against the bigredhand™ when there are cars coming, they say you're victim-blaming. I really don't want anyone to get hurt, which is why I make such comments. Of course I would stop my car or bike if someone is doing this, but how about they also take a little responsibility for their safety and just don't do stupid reckless things while walking? It's a two-way street, so to speak. Yes, when we are driving two-ton killing machines, we need to be super vigilant and aware of this. But people who are walking and biking also need to not just walk out into traffic either. Yield to pedestrians doesn't mean "wander around in the road anywhere you feel like it and hope every driver is paying attention."

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Voting closed 17

Ethically run red lights?
Is that like different shades of illegal?
Here's a story of a cyclist running a red light and killing a pedestrian, so yes it does happen. Just because you've not killed someone with your bike doesn't mean it hasn't happened

https://globalnews.ca/news/4343595/fatal-cyclist-pedestrian-collision/

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Voting closed 7

Stole that from a fellow UHuber from a disucssion about ethically jaywalking. If I'm doing it and not getting in anyones way, cutting anyone off, buzzing anyone, etc, no harm no foul.

Holy crap you found the one story of a cyclist hitting and killing someone!? How hard to did you have to search for that. Meanwhile 100 Americans will die today because of cars. Get bent.

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Wait! Are you saying everyone should follow the letter of the law and be punished for not doing so (as they should be) except YOU or does this pass apply to all cyclists? Shouldn't laws be applied to all people's evenly?

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The police don't do traffic enforcement here, again, why should I follow the law if there are no consequences? Now witness how this attitude is used by people behind the wheel of a car and tell me that you're still concerned about cyclists running reds.

The laws and roads we have are not designed around keeping cyclists and pedestrians safe, they were designed to keep cars moving as fast as possible. So sometimes breaking those shitty laws keeps us safer. The pass should apply to all vulnerable road users, we aren't the ones recklessly crashing into people and buildings.

This is a common talking point employed by car apologists, shouldn't all laws apply equally to everyone? No of course they shouldn't and they don't. You ignore that the laws are different for say, limited access highways. Bikes and horses and pedestrians can't use it, thats not a very equal law. Cyclists are not required to use turn signals, based on MGLs, if they need both hands to operate. Cars are not allowed to pass on the right, bikes are. Helmets are only required for riders 17 (I think) and under. Trucks are not allowed on certain roads that cars and bikes are on. Cars aren't supposed to travel or park in the bike lane, but they still do.

Thats just Massachusetts mind you, you'd be interseted to know the Idaho Stop Law allows bikes to treat stop signs differently than cars.

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Let's require registration for bicycles using any public way larger than a neighborhood street, licensing for cyclists operating on public ways, and make it illegal for anyone over the age of 16 to operate a bicycle on a sidewalk.

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Whooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooosh.

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That is to say...I was being dead serious. Cyclists need to behave on the roads before they go accusing anyone and everyone on two feet or behind the wheel of murder and mayhem...you know, the way they do now. And that means licensing, registration, and insurance.

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We can't have you hurting yourself with all this contorting of your spine. Well I mean, do you even have a spine to contort?

Lot of good licensing, registration, and insurance does. I mean, just look at the fine example set with how we apply that to automobiles.

Whats your solution for addressing road violence thats overwhelming the fault of motorists?

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Voting closed 15

violence, noun: whenever a bicyclist maneuvers under under the wheels of a moving vehicle, while intentionally minimizing his visibility to the operator of said vehicle.

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What are your solutions to solving road violence that is overwhelming the fault of motorists?

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because you are dodging responsibility on behalf of a great many cyclists whose own reckless behavior is the primary cause of what happens to them.

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You wanna talk about responsibility, 40,000+ Americans dying every year from automobiles Roman. Must be the bikes right?

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Voting closed 17

it's your own stupidity.

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So the motorist that ran the stop sign and hit me wasn't at fault because of my own stupidity right?

Keep in mind, the motorist was cited for failure to yield. I'm actually genuinely curious how you can "spin" this. Get it?!

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And has nothing better to do than drink and troll.

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Anything else you’d like to do to take out your irrational hatred of bikers /skirt the actual problem?

I spend about 90% of my work day driving a large van around greater Boston. I also commute by bike as I don’t own a personal vehicle. My personal experience is “cyclists running res lights” is a non issue. It’s a boogey man created by people who just don’t like cyclists sharing their precious road.

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Voting closed 20

You must drive on very special and enlightened roads.
Lately, I see about one cyclist in four run a red light, sometimes as many as one in three - and at least half of the time, that cyclist will run multiple red lights in the corridor they're traveling in.

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In these cases of one cyclist running multiple reds, how many children did you see them run over? Did they crash into any buildings?

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Next time you're driving on your non-special non-enlightened roads, keep a count of the number of motor vehicles you see running red lights/stop signs, and get back to us.

Expecting nothing but silence...

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No problem!

Should I use the "It's only wrong/dangerous if they actually do hit someone/something while doing it" standard? That's what Spinny says matters. Good luck trying that defense if you get pulled over.

Now, if you're talking about actual risky behavior...
* pushing past yellow and into red after the end of green - car drivers do it at least as often as bicyclists.
* approaching an already-red signal with nobody else waiting from the same direction and rolling right through the intersection without stopping? Car drivers - hardly ever. If you needed a number I'd say less than 1 in 100. Bicyclists - 1 in 4 as I said before.
* approaching an already-red signal in the same direction as one or more lanes of vehicles fully stopped, passing them (in some sort of actual, legitimate lane for going that same direction), and rolling right through the intersection without stopping? Car drivers - rare, somewhere less frequently than 1 in 100. Bicyclists - 1 in 4 as I said before.

I'm not defending Massachusetts car drivers here - they've got a well-earned bad reputation.

I'm pointing out that bicyclists are as bad and in some ways worse. As several people have frequently pointed out (when talking about road/gas taxes) in these little tea-time chats, bicyclists are usually Massachusetts car-owners and car-drivers as well - so they're from that same set of crappy-skilled people. They don't magically become better drivers on a bike than behind the wheel of a car - in fact, there's a noticeable portion that become more aggressive/reckless because of the physical opportunities the size of a bike provides (weaving in and out of traffic, merging into ped traffic when convenient, driving wrong way, running red lights).

I'm speaking out against the absurd mindset that too many bike advocates (including some here) seem to have that any crash between car and bike is "fault of car driver", "cars kill", etc... because "massive, people-crushing cars", and "bikes don't do that damage"...
Yes - mass, speed, momentum, rigid bodies, lack of rigid bodies... determine the physical equation. However, operator decisions set up the circumstances of the physical equation. Operator decisions are the cause that leads to the effect. That the bicyclist & bicycle will almost always lose in a crash with a car is a physical result, not a cause. The cause might be bad driving by the car driver or just as easily bad driving by the bicyclist. So, the best that might be said of bicyclists like this is that they're more of danger to themselves than to others.

I'm speaking out against the absurd mindset that some bike advocates (including some here) seem to have that behavior isn't reckless or dangerous because they haven't (yet) seen it hurt anybody. Always a great feeling to be sharing the road with somebody who won't see the potential danger in their actions.

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People like to scream out their car windows and scream on here about "YOU RAN A RED LIGHT YOU CRIMINAL," but it's often safer, and it often benefits both the drivers and the cyclists. No, I'm not talking about blowing through a red, and if you do that, you're an idiot with a death wish. But it's often safer for cyclists to go when the light is about to change to green and the intersection is clear, or when the light is still red and the parallel crosswalk has a walk signal. That way, we get up and out of your way, and we're not in the intersection or entering the intersection at the same time as you. If I start up on a green light and I'm to the right of cars, they often don't see me and might right hook me or veer into my lane. If I take the whole lane, they usually get super mad and start screaming out their windows and honking, or a car behind them doesn't see why they're driving slowly and they illegally fly around them and almost take me out. We really need a law that cyclists can safely and carefully disobey signals.

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Idaho stop for the win!

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There's no reason not to allow this by law.

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To have that on the ballot. Particularly given the amount of money spent relating to cyclist infrastructure.

And the fact cyclist are ALL horrible people!

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Bicycles would be triggering red light cameras all the time unless the sensitivity could be dialed down.

State law doesn't allow for traffic infraction cameras.

Many intersections have too brief yellow time per standards and trigger lawsuits and much expense re-timing all the traffic lights.

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Voting closed 9

Bikes are a non-issue. First of all, cameras wouldn't detect them. Second, fines would be automated based on license plates.

Red-light-running car detected -> run OCR on plate -> query RMV API for owner/address -> generate citation: RMV record and physical mailer.

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Voting closed 7

Stop making two lane roads into one to make room for bike lanes.

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Make them no lane roads just to make you even more miserable.

IMAGE(http://lh3.ggpht.com/_9F9_RUESS2E/S7tbclwxiPI/AAAAAAAACmw/uI1bCpNuKNA/s800/picoftheday0012-space-60people.jpg)

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Voting closed 19

If bikes take up 1/5th the space but only go 1/5 as fast, it's break even.

Same deal for the bus. If the bus goes slower (and it does, because it has to make all the stops), then it's break even. Only makes sense in very dense and busy areas, otherwise not.

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Voting closed 7

You think cars go faster in the city? Guess you're one of the people who honk at cyclists and then have them pass you back at the red light because I regularly see the exact same cars at stoplight after stoplight on my commute home on Comm Ave because traffic makes cars slowwwwwwww

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Voting closed 18

Only makes sense in very dense and busy areas, otherwise not.

Gee, too bad there aren't any of those around the Boston area, huh?

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It would be terribly dangerous to bike in a pack that dense. One swerve or hard brake and it would be a giant pile of bike spaghetti.

Though the same could be said of the cars once they start moving. However, it would only be that many cars if they're all solo drivers. All 4-person carpools would mean just the first 15 cars. Not all cars are carpools, but not all buses are crammed full either.

I would not want to commute on an MBTA bus with 60 people on it. The 2+2 seating means more than about 5 standees start to block the aisle.

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Voting closed 3

get off Uhub with that nonsense.

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Voting closed 15

Wider roads just lead to higher speeds, which gets us the exact opposite in terms of safety, especially for pedestrians and cyclists.

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stopped in traffic, and go around double parked Uber/Lyft drivers. Would help reduce excess produced by lane narrowing.

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Voting closed 4

citations needed

From what I see, those motorists cutting around left turning motorists end up in the next jam up.

You only think you are going faster. You are not.

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Voting closed 6

Red light cameras need to be restricted in a manner than doesn't allow cities & towns to reduce the duration of yellow lights below what standard traffic engineering practices require. There are several communities which became addicted to the camera revenue and kept reducing the duration of yellow lights to increase fines to the point the number of collisions increased from drivers slamming on their brakes abruptly to avoid fines.

Cameras either increase or decrease safety depending on if the city/town starts gaming the yellow light timing for added revenue. There's plenty of data on this and the law needs to make sure engineering standards aren't compromised, along with safety, to satisfy politicians' desires for more revenue.

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Voting closed 18

There's already plenty of intersections without cameras (which state law doesn't allow for anyway) where the yellow timing is dangerously short.

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This. Cities/towns should not be incentivized to shorten yellow lights... maybe revenues should go to the state which then will appropriate a certain % of funding for maintenance of each installed camera. I'm sure there's a process for something like that.

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Will always affect people of color disproportionately. The traffic and safety problems are real, but city councilors would be wise to think about the impact it will have on people of color. We don't want to put people in serious debt or take away their ability to get work because they have been cited for moving violations that white folks don't typically get stopped for.

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Voting closed 15

if you can show the officer pulls over a certain race/gender/ethnicity more than what the driving population should be where you get pulled over, you should get off.

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Voting closed 15

but how is an individual supposed to prove this in their case?

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Voting closed 6

There was a Northeastern Study on it.

If you can prove that the officers citation distribution does not represent the driving population, then you can show that there might be a bias. (The NU study has the exact numbers, like 1-2 standard deviations off the % or something that is a little over my head), Jack McDevitt was the one who would know.

So you would need the Officers citation history (It would help if he/she was white because the black officer could look you in the face and answer your question in more favorable terms to the judge I'm guessing), and where the tickets were written (if they were written in a black neighborhood, you would need to prove bias another way, although sometimes black neighborhoods have a lower percentage of actual drivers who are black and vice versa).

Not easy but it can be done (See MA vs. Lora)

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we have to also factor in that it still puts people of color at a disadvantage. We're still comparing white people getting no ticket at all to Black people getting a ticket and having to spend time and probably money on a lawyer to end up in the same position as the white person.

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A lot of the people struck are minorities. But I guess its OK for these people to get hit, right?

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Voting closed 19

Thats why cameras are great. No racial bias.

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The cameras themselves won't be biased, but their placement can cause disparate effects. If the cameras are concentrated in Roxbury, for example, and very few in Southie, there will probably be a racial disparity.

I 100% support cameras but their placement and distribution needs to be done thoughtfully.

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Or we could just place them where they'd do the most good.

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You're not wrong, but Andrea Campbell is a black woman who represents Dorchester, so I'm pretty sure this has occurred to her. I believe this is why the proposal involves creating a new department focused solely on traffic enforcement that even goes as far as wearing a different uniform.

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It's a reasonable concern, but considering that Andrea Campbell is the one pushing for this, I am sure there will be plenty of measures to avoid these kind of problems.

You can watch her TED talk from last month, and you will see that she doesn't take racial inequality lightly; it's probably her highest priority in fact.

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Voting closed 15

Surveillance reform https://www.google.com/search?q=surveillance+cambridge+city+council

a) Who keeps the Data?

b) Who has access to the Data?