Monroe expects conservative use of traffic-camera video

Aside from Lynnwood, Monroe is the only other city in Snohomish County using traffic-enforcement cameras.

Monroe is in the middle of a lawsuit over whether an initiative brought by Tim Eyman to restrict the city’s use of cameras is legitimate. The debate there has gotten nasty and noisy.

Monroe contracts with an Arizona vendor, Redflex Traffic Systems. Cameras are up at three locations, and a fourth is planned, pending construction. The fourth location was approved some time back.

Earlier this month, we found out that Lynnwood was using video footage from its enforcement cameras to investigate crimes. The cameras are operated by American Traffic Solutions, also of Arizona.

Lynnwood police don’t have access to a live video feed, but they can ask ATS to kick over vid from a given time and date. The video has been used to probe hit-and-runs, car-versus pedestrians and bank robberies, at least.

That perq of the camera program had been a secret to many people in the area, including us, and including other police officers.

Monroe’s cameras haven’t been up for long. Do officers there plan to use them for investigations?

Not so fast.

Monroe police can make requests for video from the traffic-camera company, but they haven’t done that yet, police spokeswoman Debbie Willis said.

“We would only do that under a search warrant,” she said.

In other words, they’d first seek a judge’s approval.

Monroe’s school-zone speed cameras were expected to kick back on once school started again. The city is just starting to see infractions and fines work their way through the system so stats on the number of citations and the related revenue aren’t available yet.

Monroe officers also don’t have access to a live video feed from the traffic cameras. The likelihood of using the vendor’s video footage for criminal investigations hadn’t really come up yet, Willis said.

“That has not really been a discussion, and it has not come up in any investigation either,” she said.

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