Is Big Brother watching you?

That is the question Cheshire Town officials have been fielding from numerous residents since the installation of a large, awkward-looking traffic camera on the light overlooking Cheshire’s busy West Main Street at the beginning of July. 

The camera, which is affixed by a giant hook on top of the traffic lights, has caused some Cheshire residents concerns, especially about its origins, but Town Manager Sean Kimball and Public Works Director George Noewatne assure the public that the cameras are not being used as the next government spying operation.

“We have been receiving some questions regarding the cameras atop the West Main Street/Maple Avenue intersection,” started Kimball, at the July 14 Town Council meeting. “We have been advised that these are for traffic management purposes only. They are not live-streaming.” 

Noewatne later explained to The Herald in greater detail the exact purpose of the camera, and why it was placed where it is.

“The ‘Cliff Notes’ are that the State tells us that (the devices) are cameras to optimize the traffic signals,” he explained. “They determine how long vehicles wait at the signal and communicate with the signal controller to optimize the timing of the lights to keep traffic flowing as unencumbered as possible.”

According to Noewatne, the cameras do not store any of the images that they take, and they cannot be used to ticket vehicles for red light violations or any other infractions.

State law indicates that the cameras are to be used to detect vehicles stuck in traffic and immediately delete the information once the data is recorded. Noewatne also explained that different times of the day require different signaling for the lights, and the cameras need to learn those particular signals and patterns.

“The state owns all the traffic signals in town except for the one at the trail crossing,” he added.

At the July 14 Town Council meeting, Councilman Jim Jinks, who campaigned last year on pedestrian safety, asked Kimball if the cameras indicate if any future work on the intersection is in the planning stages or if the installation of the cameras means that Connecticut’s DOT is aware of Cheshire’s traffic issues. Kimball and Noewatne informed Jinks that the cameras were not installed for those reasons.

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