By Danny Schrafel
A series of controversial speed cameras set to be installed near schools in Suffolk County will not be plugged in after all.
County Executive Steve Bellone announced the decision Tuesday, saying that a year of research into the program produced data that does not support its implementation.
“As I have said from the beginning of my tenure as county executive, I will use data to drive decisions that I make on behalf of the residents of Suffolk County,” Bellone said in a release. “The data and research does not support the implementation of the school speed zone cameras in Suffolk County.”
Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) applauded Bellone.
“I join today with my colleagues to affirm our commitment to public safety and to ensure that county programs are designed to meet these goals without unfairly affecting our hard-working taxpayers,” Stern said.
Neighboring Nassau County, facing a wave of criticism from residents who argue the school-zone camera program is more of a money grab than an earnest effort to promote public safety, has dramatically scaled back the program in recent weeks and is weighing scrapping it outright.
Research in Suffolk County, which included analysis of Nassau’s rocky rollout, discovered a number of hurdles to implementing the program here. A third of Suffolk County school districts do not fall within the Suffolk County Police Department’s jurisdiction; the county does not control speed or sign ordinances within towns and installing “appropriate signage would be extremely expensive and complex,” the results read. A speed-camera program would also require the county to enter into “numerous long-term contracts with municipalities and companies with substantial penalties” for early termination.
From Nassau, they learned that a smooth rollout is essential.
“The public does not have the appetite to support such a program without the evidence that there is a high incidence of accidents in school speed zones and that the implementation of cameras would improve vehicular behavior,” the report reads.
Those findings are the product of a steering committee established to review and analyze the possible implementation of the program. This summer, in July, the county issued a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) to scope out companies that could implement the program, to which 11 companies responded.
The decision to eschew speed-zone cameras does not mean other proposals are being taken off the table, Bellone said. Legislator Sarah Anker said she favors creating a new School Zone Safety Commission to work with public safety officials, PTAs and school districts to seek alternatives.
“In the past, we have implemented successful driver awareness programs, including our Red Light Camera program, which has shown to reduce serious vehicular accidents,” Bellone said. As always, we will continue to explore all avenues to improve the safety of our residents.”