Lucas Holter, Senior Photographer

On Tuesday, a Board of Alders joint committee unanimously voted to advance an ordinance proposing to install 19 red light and speeding cameras. 

The Board of Alders Public Safety and Legislation committees held a joint meeting in City Hall to vote on advancing the traffic camera ordinance proposed by Mayor Justin Elicker last month in his 2024-25 budget. If this proposal is approved by the full Board of Alders, New Haven will be the first city in Connecticut to install red light cameras.

The ordinance was drafted in response to House Bill 5917 introduced last year which allows municipalities to install traffic cameras in local intersections. The ordinance proposes the installation of 11 red light cameras and eight speed safety cameras around New Haven. Their locations were chosen based on car crash data from 2020 to 2022. The threshold was that at least two crashes need to be attributed to a driver running a red light at these locations. 

“You might think the biggest worry of letting [my son] go around alone would be crime, but it’s not,” New Havener John Fitzpatrick said. “It’s cars. I know the biggest threat to my family is cars, particularly at Chapel Boulevard.”

The red light and speed safety cameras use license-plate reading technology. If approved and installed, they will be able to identify drivers who run lights or break the speed limit, enabling the city to fine offenders.

Drivers caught on these cameras will face fines of $50 for the first offense and $75 for subsequent offenses. Alders raised questions about the targeting of minorities, the enforcement of the tickets and the severity of the fines. 

Scot X. Esdaile, the president of the NAACP Connecticut State Conference, previously condemned the cameras as “Just another way of putting … fines on Black and Brown people.”

Over 20 members of the public testified in the public hearing section of the meeting. 

“I think it’s time for us to start to put in a next level of accountability,” New Havener Laura Clarke said. “There will always be people who don’t care and will not slow down and there will always be people who slow down a bit because of this. [Either way] this will help our neighborhoods and cities.”

Other members of the public expressed similar sentiments, some saying that they see vehicles run red lights on a daily basis. Many pushed for this proposal as a short-term solution to the larger necessity to redesign streets across New Haven.  

Some members of the public mentioned cases where their friends and families got into accidents because of speeding. The Connecticut Crash Data Repository shows that New Haven accounted for 64 fatal crashes out of the state’s total of 234 in 2023. Some residents argued that this proposal is a much-needed law enforcement mechanism to address the speeding crisis. 

“We now have an opportunity to take advantage of a system that over 300 municipalities in the United States take advantage of,” Lior Trestman, a member of Mayor Elicker’s task force on traffic cameras, said. “[For instance,] New York has over 2,500 speeding cameras and over 200 red light cameras so…this is something that has been well approved of.”

Many members echoed Trestman’s statement and also noted that New Haven already has over 4,500 city-owned cameras. Traffic cameras only detect a vehicle’s license plate, which they argued would not infringe on the privacy of residents. 

The full Board of Alders meeting will be held on Monday, May 6, 2024, in City Hall.