PILOT PROGRAM: Cameras In City Cars

Posted on: 10:23 pm, March 19, 2013, by

They travel about 70 million miles a year at a cost of about $14 million dollars to tax payers.

“Vehicles and fleets are a big part of what our budget is,” says Des Moines City Manager, Rick Clark.

He says placing cameras in city vehicles, like snow plow and garbage trucks could help trim the budget.  The city is considering a 120 day pilot program that would consist of installing 125 cameras in city vehicles.  The cameras would record collisions, the location of the vehicle, even its speed.

“The way it works, the cameras and the GPS are able to monitor driving habits of folks.  if we understand what that is, maybe we can provide some coaching.”

Some city employees question whether the city is acting as a coach, or Big Brother.

One driver, who asked to remain anonymous, wrote us:  “I believe they are in a way invading the privacy of the driver.  Also, I just don’t think it will cause less accidents or save the city enough money to warrant them. “

Clark says he understands the employee’s position

“If I were a driver, I wouldn’t want someone watching what i do.”

But he says the city has an obligation to taxpayers to at least consider the cost of the program versus its benefits, which could include fuel savings and a reduction in accidents.

On average, the city spends $210,000 a year on repairing vehicles and about $125,000 in liability costs associated with damage to private property.  Fuel adds up to about $3 million a year.

The cameras, if installed permanently, would cost about $400,000 plus maintenance fees.

But Clark says the pilot program needs to show some tangible benefits and ultimately the City Council has to give the program the green light.