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Nassau deploys more speed cameras

Cars drive past the speed camera set up

Cars drive past the speed camera set up in front of Dutch Broadway School on Dutch Broadway on Tuesday, September 2, 2014 in Elmont. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Another 14 speed cameras began operating outside Nassau County schools Wednesday, as county lawmakers fielded complaints from constituents about the controversial new program.

Nassau now operates 20 fixed or mobile cameras after six locations came online Tuesday. The county will add five more mobile camera locations next week. The full complement of 56 camera sites -- one in each school district in the county -- will be operational by next month, said Nassau spokesman Brian Nevin.

Some minority Democratic lawmakers said they've been flooded with calls from constituents who complain the cameras amount to a "backdoor tax."

Legis. Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury) said her office received at least 35 calls, some "angry and vulgar," since schools began opening Tuesday, while more complaints came from constituents on Facebook.

"There's a lot of anger in the district," said Jacobs, who, like all county lawmakers, voted for the camera program.

Legis. Carrié Solages (D-Elmont) said reaction is split in his district. Residents with kids in area schools support the cameras and want more of them; those without school-aged children oppose the cameras as a "gotcha" trap, he said.

Legis. Denise Ford (R-Long Beach) said she's heard few complaints in her district and that she is "comfortable" with the rollout of the program.

Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said she's received "a couple of calls" about the cameras. "I think our goal is being achieved," Gonsalves said. "For the first time, I see the majority of drivers observing the school zone speed limits, even at schools that do not have cameras."

County officials, who are expecting $25 million in annual revenue from the cameras to help close the budget deficit, say the program will boost safety for students around schools.

Democratic lawmakers proposed a bill to increase the size of speed camera warning signs and equip them with flashing lights when the devices are operating. The county plans to install the flashing lights at all camera sites but still must secure power sources and equipment, Nevin said.

The cameras generally will operate from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m., although times may vary slightly at some locations, and violators must pay $80 in fines and fees.

County officials said they could not provide data on the number of tickets issued Tuesday and Wednesday because American Traffic Solutions, the Arizona-based firm that runs the program in return for 38 percent of the fines and penalties, still must verify the violations.

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