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Hartford Neighborhood Sets Up Surveillance Cameras On Street To Deter Speeding

STEVEN GOODE

January 28, 2010

HARTFORD - If you're driving north on Terry Road toward Bloomfield or using it as a shortcut south to downtown Hartford watch your speed. Because you might be caught on videotape.Or maybe not.

A small group of residents calling themselves the Terry Road Action Committee mounted two surveillance cameras on a tree along the street in October.

Then they put out the word at the nearby University of Hartford. Their goal, laid out in fliers placed on cars parked on campus, was to guard the safety of more than 30 children who live and play on the street.

The group said it would notify police, the university, insurance companies and even the students' parents if their video cameras caught them speeding or driving recklessly through their West End neighborhood.

They also offered up to a $500 reward to anyone who reported speeders.So far, the cameras are doing their job, said one member.

"Once the signs went up we saw a reduction in speeding," said Jonathan Fairbanks, a member of the organization and a Terry Road resident since 2005. "Traffic has slowed down."

Fairbanks said the video cameras belong to him, and the tree that holds them is in front of his house. Beyond that, he was unwilling to share much information, including the names of other committee members or whether the impressive-looking cameras are turned on or if they even work.

"I'm not going to tell you anything about the cameras," he said. "We're very pleased with the results."

Fairbanks said Terry Road residents previously tried a variety of methods to discourage speeding, from placing traffic cones in the street to making an unsuccessful request that the city install speed bumps. Hartford police also conducted increased traffic enforcement details in the area, where the speed limit is 25 mph.

But speeding and reckless driving continued, Fairbanks said, especially after students returned to the University of Hartford campus in the fall and after the Christmas holidays.

University officials, who acknowledged that their students and staff probably add to traffic on Terry Road, said they were happy the neighborhood group found a solution and said they had no issue with the methods.

"We haven't heard or seen any concerns about the cameras," said John Carson, vice president for university relations. "We don't have a sense that they are infringing on any innate right."

Some students said they understood the residents' concerns for their children, while others felt they were being discriminated against.

"I feel like they are putting it all on us, like we are the only ones," said Ilana Wixted, a junior from Boston.

Raina Simmons, a junior from New Jersey, said the neighbors should have come to them in person instead of blanketing the campus with fliers.

But she said she also saw an opportunity to claim the $500 reward being offered.

"It makes me want to go pull out a lawn chair and start pointing a [radar] gun," Simmons said.

City police said they were unaware of the group's efforts or the cameras until asked for comment.

"We don't know enough about it and have not been involved," said Nancy Mulroy, spokeswoman for the police department.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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