DC to activate stop sign, blocked box, and other new cameras


WASHINGTON, November 21, 2013 — Tomorrow, the DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) will be activating a series of new types of cameras to regulate offenses. The new cameras will monitor stop signs, cars failing to yield to pedestrians, “blocking the box”, radar to detect car speeds through intersections, and the presence of oversized vehicles travelling on restricted streets.

32 stop sign cameras, 20 gridlock “blocking the box” cameras, 16 crosswalk cameras, 24 intersection speed cameras, and 8 oversized vehicle cameras will go online.

MPD released a statement on the initiative:

“DC Street Safe is aimed at using new photo enforcement technologies to combat aggressive and dangerous driving habits that endanger some of our most vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians, bicyclists, and other vehicle drivers and passengers. Additionally, DC Street Safe allows traffic safety enforcement in areas and circumstances where it could be dangerous or impractical for police officers to pull over vehicles for violations. DC Street Safe will be comprised of the following new technologies:

  • Gridlock enforcement units that will improve traffic flow by targeting “blocking the box” at intersections;
  • Portable stop sign enforcement units to reduce violations in residential neighborhoods ;
  • Portable crosswalk enforcement units that will enhance pedestrian safety at crosswalks near schools, parks, and recreation centers;
  • Speed enforcement units that will focus on intersections with known speeding problems;
  • Units that will enforce rules on oversized and overweight commercial vehicles in order to reduce infrastructure damage and enhance quality of life in our neighborhoods.”

To help promote “DC Street Safe” the city has released a series of promotional videos aimed at developing support for the program.

MPD’s press statement also discusses the promotional videos. “In the new videos, MPD pokes fun at these offense by showing annoying behavior by co-workers in the office and even dabbling into the realm of inappropriate fashion choices. Up uintil [sic] early this afternoon, those videos could be viewed on YouTube.”

Critics of the photo system point to the fact that individuals can be found guilty of a crime they literally did not commit. For example, the “DC StreetSafe” website says “The registered owner of the vehicle is responsible for paying photo enforcement citations.   Liability cannot be transferred to the person driving the vehicle.”

Accordingly, regardless of the fact that the owner of a vehicle may not necessarily have been the one to commit a particular violation, he or she will be held legally responsible. To date, it is unclear if any constitutional challenges have been brought to the law, as this requirement seems to work contrary to the “Due Process Clause” and related amendments.

According to MPD, the new technology cameras will be activated tomorrow on Saturday November 23 and will issue only warnings for the first month. After that, on Monday December 30th, fines will be issued for any violations. It is unclear how quickly the warnings will go out, or if the recipients of the warnings will receive them before December 30th.


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Rahat Husain
Rahat Husain has been working as a columnist since 2013 when he joined the Communities. With an interest in America and Islam, Rahat is a prolific writer on contemporary and international issues. In addition to writing for the Communities, Rahat Husain is an Attorney based in the Washington DC Metropolitan area. He is the Director of Legal and Policy Affairs at UMAA Advocacy. For the past six years, Mr. Husain has worked with Congressmen, Senators, federal agencies, think tanks, NGOs, policy institutes, and academic experts to advocate on behalf of Shia Muslim issues, both political and humanitarian. UMAA hosts one of the largest gatherings of Shia Ithna Asheri Muslims in North America at its annual convention.