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Speed Cameras Flash Forward

School zone speed cameras are beginning to gear up in Plainview-Old Bethpage, and though the robot law enforcement tools are not yet fully operational, drivers are beginning to get road weary at the prospect of a surveillance state.

While officials at the Nassau County Traffic Safety board said that only five cameras have been activated, drivers are spotting far more on daily drives through the neighborhood. Michael Dulphin, a Plainview resident who makes a daily commute to a local college, said he has seen school zone speed cameras pop up near Parkway Elementary School as well as Our Lady of Mercy school on South Oyster Bay Road.

Dulphin said there is no signage at Our Lady of Mercy stating that it is a school zone.

“I’ve lived there my whole life and I have never seen cops enforce it as a school zone,” he said. “It’s a scam. If they wanted to enforce it, they would have had cops there before this program.”

Now, Dulphin said, he will likely cut through side streets, Universal Blvd. in particular, to avoid the cameras.

“They will have a lot of people doing the same thing,” he said. “Driving through the neighborhood to avoid getting that ticket. And some people will probably be speeding down those side streets, endangering lives.”

The notion that speed zone cameras are merely a revenue generating tool for the town is not new. Joe Pellicone of Massapequa said he believes red light cameras have served the same purpose since that program’s implementation. For him, it’s the camera’s indiscriminate nature that worries him most — a missing element of human judgement lost on the robot eye.

“They found out that the red light cameras were successful and now this is the next step,” he said. “To get to Sunrise Highway from my house, I have to drive through a speed camera zone and a red light camera. If I go west instead, I still have to deal with a red light camera, I feel like I’m trapped. I wish both counties [Nassau and Suffolk] would make a public statement about the locations of the cameras and the hours of operation.”

Chris Mistron, director of Nassau County Traffic Safety Board, citing a traffic study, said school districts in other states that have installed speed cameras have found an 80 percent drop in violations.

“I want this to be a dinner conversation,” Mistron said. “Positive or negative, they’ll cause some discussion. What we’re trying to do is improve the safety around the school on a school day. We’re not trying to catch people on off hours. We just want to try and slow down the traffic.”

That is of little consolation to Bethpage resident Chandra Klemmer, who, along with her husband, received five tickets July 28 through 30 from a speed camera at Plainedge Middle School in Bethpage. Klemmer said three of her tickets were within minutes of each other.

“My husband and I are fighting all five of the tickets. We are extremely careful,” she said. “I feel these were installed as a sneaky way to bring in revenue. We all have the right to face our accuser and a machine that can be tampered with is not a very accurate accuser. While I feel the safety of all children is important, this is nothing but a racket.”

Joe Matthews of Old Bethpage said safety is the secondary purpose of these new speed cameras. For him, worse than creating a revenue source for the town, they are part of a growing surveillance scare reminiscent of a dystopian future.

“It’s the surveillance state creeping in and it’s becoming more and more acceptable,” he said. “Pretty soon you won’t be able to leave the house without being videotaped. This is just another way for them to take your tax money in the name of safety.”

— With Additional Reporting by Dan Offner