Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Of Cameras and Crosswalks

On Tuesday, June 16, the Common Council passed a resolution to install a surveillance camera at the corner of Warren and Second streets, but the discussion of the camera didn't end there. It continued at last night's Police Committee meeting, beyond a simple report from Police Commissioner Gary Graziano that the camera would be up by the end of the month.

The issue of placing surveillance cameras in front of all bars, not just the Savoia--something that Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) wanted included in the resolution--was brought up again at the Police Committee meeting, not by Garriga but by others present. Graziano explained, as he has before, "This is not about cameras outside of bars. This is a camera at a trouble spot"--the trouble spot being the corner of Warren and Second streets.

Jake Walthour, Jr., who accompanied his parents to the meeting, stated "for the record" that his parents do not feel they are being picked on, singled out, or prejudiced against. "Anything," he said, "that can be done to protect them and their livelihood is welcomed."

The perceived inequity of placing a surveillance camera in proximity to the Savoia and not other bars where there have been incidents wasn't the only issue members of the public had with the camera. Audience member Verity Smith reported that "people are nervous about surveillance if they don't have access to the footage." Another audience member, Tysen Fingado argued that the cameras should be live stream "so that people will be able to see what is being recorded." 

Graziano responded, "If it's up to me, the public will not be privy to the footage. It makes no sense to me."

Alderman Nick Haddad (First Ward), who sits on the Police Committee, expressed the opinion that it would be "highly, highly irregular for surveillance footage to be out there for anyone to see."

HPD Chief Ed Moore explained how the video record is used: "If a crime is caught on video, [the video] becomes evidence, and through disclosure [those involved in the crime] have access to the evidence." He went on to say that the police often show the video to a victim. This was done recently in the case of a mugging, and, aided by the video, the victim was able to identify his attackers.

The topic of crosswalks was introduced by Supervisor Ed Cross (Second Ward), who said he "needed some help with racing, speeding, and reckless driving in the city." "Pedestrians do not have the right of way," Cross told the chief and the commissioner.

Gossips asked if Hudson could learn from communities where drivers actually stopped for crosswalks how that level of compliance was achieved, citing Great Barrington as an example. Haddad suggested that the laws were different in Massachusetts, requiring drivers to stop at crosswalks rather than just yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. Moore, however, spoke of Saugerties as a possible model, where drivers were conditioned to stop at crosswalks by "selective enforcement." For several weeks, the police monitored the crosswalks, first giving warnings to people who failed to give the right of way to pedestrians and then issuing tickets.

The crosswalk on Warren Street at City Hall Place and the crosswalks on Union Street at the post office were singled out as particularly hazardous for pedestrians. Graziano acknowledged that the crosswalk at City Hall Place, from the PARC Park to the Hudson Opera House, was problematic because there wasn't enough clearance around the north end of the crosswalk. People entering the crosswalk were not visible to drivers because it was as if they were emerging from between cars, but he said he was loath to eliminate parking spaces on Warren Street. 

Moore shared a happy coincidence that could ameliorate the situation. The Hudson Opera House has requested more parking spaces in proximity to their building be designated handicapped. If the spaces on either side of the crosswalk on the north side of the street were reserved for handicapped parking, which would mean they might not be occupied at all times, it could address some of the problems of crosswalk.

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