Do overhead traffic detectors record images?

The in basket: Andrew MacMillen is the latest to ask about the cameras Kitsap County is putting on top of more and more of its traffic signal cross arms, the ones at Miller Bay  and Gunderson roads near Indianola in his case. 

“When the lights were originally installed, they only had the bus/emergency preemption notifier/receivers,” he said. “What are the new cameras for?” 

When I told him they are overhead traffic detectors that tell the signals when cars are waiting, used in lieu of the in-pavement wires that have been around for years, Andrew had some more questions. 

“Just to be thoroughly paranoid,” he said,”if they are video cameras that use pattern recognition to detect traffic, can the signal be poached for other purposes?  My concerns are that if they have video, 1) is it retained, 2) can it be used for make/model/face/plate/etc. recognition, either live or later? Or used as a red light system, etc. ad nauseum.”

While I was asking about them, I asked how they worked for their main purpose. It has to be more than motion detection, I reasoned, as stopped cars aren’t moving. 

The out basket: Jeff Shea, Kitsap County’s traffic engineer, replied, “The cameras are not new. They were installed when the signals were constructed. The detection cameras are actual video cameras that detect traffic when the default pixel pattern is disrupted. 

“While it is technologically possible to record and transmit images, there are no communication lines connected to the camera,” Jeff said. “We do not have any recording devices at the signal cabinet itself either, so no video is retained by the county.”

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