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9/12/2012
Chicago Speed Cameras to Photograph Children
Speed cameras in Chicago, Illinois will save videos of children for at least thirty days under current contract proposals.

Rahm EmanuelMayor Rahm Emanuel's proposal to line the streets of Chicago, Illinois with photo radar vans has run into a speed bump. Enabling legislation for the school zone speed camera program rushed through the statehouse in Springfield at a record pace, taking slightly over a month for the proposal to clear the first committee hurdle after being introduced. The measure became law in February and took effect in July.

As The Expired Meter first reported on Sunday, the effort suffered a small setback as Emanuel's staff failed realize that the lowered 20 MPH school zone speed limits only apply "when children are present" under state law. This has been interpreted over the past four decades to mean the speed limit is 30 MPH absent proof that kids are nearby.

"Construing the word 'presence' ...to mean actual physical presence of children in the streets or in the school zone not only gives effect to the standard meaning of 'present,' but also effectuates the obvious intention of the legislature," Attorney General William J. Scott wrote in a 1974 opinion. "That intention is to protect school children from injury by vehicles in the streets adjacent to, or leading to, the school. There is no need to protect children inside a school from vehicles in the streets."

That understanding will likely reduce the number of prime photo ticketing locations by about sixty percent. Emanuel's 51-page bill granting the Windy City permission to issue automated tickets in "safety zones" did not alter the state code specifying how speed limits apply to school zones. Instead, it defined a safety zone as any property within an eighth of a mile from any school facility or any park. Cameras in the vicinity of a park, which comprise about forty percent of the potential locations, would be enforceable from 6am to 11pm regardless of the presence of children or pedestrians.

Even with the setback, photo ticketing companies have been desperate to land what is expected to be one of the single most lucrative automated ticketing contracts in the country. On Monday, the city stopped accepting proposals after responding to 204 questions from vendors, several of which focused on the school zone issue. Chicago wants to leave it to vendors to come up with a viable solution.

"All respondents must be able to determine and document when children are present in cases when the school zone speed limit is enforced," Chicago Chief Procurement Officer Jamie L. Rhee wrote to the camera companies. "This can be through a combination of automated recognition and/or human review. The respondent must identify the parameters, capabilities and distances for which the proposed camera system can produce enforceable images of the presence of pedestrian children."

The city set a goal of photographing children who appear within 250 feet of the photo enforcement system in all directions.

"The respondent must propose a distance at which the cameras can provide an enforceable image of child pedestrians," Rhee explained. "An enforceable image is one that provides sufficient clarity to identify the speed of the vehicle, the license plate of the vehicle and an image of the pedestrian that is of high enough resolution to identify the presence of a child pedestrian."

The city's request for proposals requests the system retain a thirty-day archive of streaming video of the children, whether or not a violation is recorded.




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