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Arlington County Now Shuts Off Traffic Cameras During Crashes

Traffic cameras are used by the media to inform the public about incidents on the road — from crashes to road closures — in traffic and news reports.

Arlington County has one of the region’s more accessible traffic camera networks, with some 180 camera feeds available on the county’s website since 2015.

“This new service is part of the County’s initiative to promote open data and better serve all those who use Arlington streets,” Arlington transportation chief Dennis Leach said at the time, when the website launched. “We’re utilizing technology to provide the public with real-time traffic conditions so that they can make informed decisions about their planned trip — anything from a commute to a special event.”

But the openness has been curtailed.

A few months ago, Arlington County implemented a new policy that proactively shuts off the feeds of traffic cameras that are in view of incidents from minor crashes to major news stories. Other times, cameras are deliberately pointed away from such incidents.

The change in policy is in the interest of privacy, county officials said.

“Arlington County cares about all the people who live, work and visit in our community,” County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a statement to ARLnow. “When a crash is called into 9-1-1, the Emergency Management Division’s Watch Office wants to protect the privacy of the people involved in case someone requires medical attention on the scene or the crash is fatal.”

“While we cannot always know the exact circumstances on the scene, we err on the side of caution by cutting off the public viewing of the live traffic camera feeds,” he said.

The policy was on display last week, when a minor crash on S. Glebe Road blocked several lanes. ARLnow was able to snap a screenshot of the crash shortly after it happened; moments later, the feed went dark.

ARLnow filed a Freedom of Information Act request to view emails related to the camera decision. After being told that it would likely cost around $1,000 to gather the documents, we cancelled the request.

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_”The Aachen exchange was an eye-opening experience where I was fully immersed in the life of a German student. I loved biking through the countryside to Belgium, having gelato and picnics in the town square, and hanging out with my German host student’s friends. My first time out of the country, the Aachen exchange taught me to keep an open mind, because you never know what could be a life changing experience.” – Kelly M._

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Learn about the new assessment of Arlington’s urban tree canopy and the many ecological and social benefits trees provide. Staff from the Green Infrastructure Center (GIC) will share study results and compare canopy cover for different areas of Arlington.The webinar will include assessments of ecosystem services such as stormwater mitigation, air quality, carbon uptake, and urban heat islands. For background on Arlington trees see the “Tree Benefits: Growing Arlington’s Urban Forest” presentation at http://www.gicinc.org/PDFs/Presentation_TreeBenefits_Arlington.pdf.

Please register in advance to assure your place at the webinar, https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/29543206508863839.

About the Arlington County Civic Federation: The Arlington County Civic Federation (“ACCF”) is a not-for-profit corporation which provides a forum for civic groups to discuss, debate, inform, advocate and provide oversight on important community issues, on a non-partisan basis. Its members include over ninety civic groups representing a broad cross-section of the community. Communications, resolutions and feedback are regularly provided to the Arlington County Government.

The next meeting is on Tuesday, February 21,2023 at 7 pm. This meeting is open to the public and will be hybrid, in-person and virtually through Zoom. Part of the agenda will be a discussion and vote on a resolution “To Restore Public Confidence in Arlington County’s Governance”. For more information on ACCF and this meeting, go to https://www.civfed.org/.

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