Traffic cameras new eyes for police
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Traffic cameras new eyes for police
Communication center monitors chase

Cincinatti Enquirer | August 11, 2005
By Jane Prendergast

Drivers might be surprised at who's watching them.

A system of 100 highway cameras let employees of the Cincinnati Police Department's new communication center follow a 15-minute, rush-hour pursuit Wednesday that ended in a drunken-driving arrest.

The Artimis system started feeding real-time traffic video from more than 100 highway cameras to the communications center just three weeks ago.

The pursuit started just after 8:30 a.m. when an off-duty Cincinnati police officer on Interstate 74 called to say a gray Cutlass hit him and drove away.

Officers pursued the car on city streets, Interstate 75 and the Norwood Lateral before stopping it about 15 minutes later on I-75 under the Ludlow viaduct.

The driver, Timothy Austin Adkins, 45, of Cleveland, was arrested and charged with operating a motor vehicle under the influence and failure to comply with a police officer. Court documents say he caused a serious risk to officers and the public.

No one is assigned specifically to monitor the cameras for crime, but they all can if a situation warrants. Two screens are online at the new Regional Operation Center in Price Hill, but police and fire operators soon will be able to see real-time traffic on about 10 televisions.

Police didn't need the system Wednesday when pursuing Adkins, but employees could have used it to direct officers trying to arrest the suspect.

"It's all about the communications center and its ability to do a lot of things,'' said Capt. Ken Jones, who supervises the center.

The real-time system is more for everyday use - for being able to more quickly see what kind of police or fire response is needed at an accident, for example, said Tim Schoch, coordinator of the incident management system.

Artimis, which stands for advanced regional traffic interactive management and information system, started in 1997 to improve traffic conditions and safety along 88 miles of highways in the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area.

"We're not a law-enforcement agency, we're not trying to be Big Brother,'' Schoch said. "What's nice now is if we have an incident, we can put it up on their screen and they can adjust their response accordingly. Whatever the incident might be, they get a real-time look at it."

The live feeds have been going for some time to Queen City Metro, so bus drivers would know if they needed to go a different way, Schoch said, and to Cincinnati's traffic engineering unit, so workers there could see any traffic tie-ups.

The same system should be online for Hamilton County dispatchers by the end of the year.

"Now we can tell officers - the accident's in the high-speed lane, or these lanes are blocked,'' Lt. Jeff Butler said. "It gets the officers there safer and gets the problem fixed sooner for commuters."

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911:  The Road to Tyranny