Police keep eye on busy intersection

LAWRENCEVILLE - A video surveillance system at a busy Norcross intersection is in early testing phases, but it has already helped police catch several motorists that passed a school bus waiting to load children.

A camera mounted at the intersection of Jimmy Carter Boulevard and South Norcross Tucker Road on March 21 recorded four motorists disregarding the bus' emergency flashers and extended stop sign as it waited to allow children on board in the right hand lane.

The vehicles zoomed passed the school bus in the far left lane of Jimmy Carter Boulevard, said Cpl. Darren Moloney, spokesman for the Gwinnett County Police Department.

"The officer was already there," said Cpl. Darren Moloney, spokesman for the Gwinnett County Police Department. "The video was icing on the cake."

Moloney said the video can be used as corroborating evidence in court.

Although the at-fault drivers were traveling in the opposite direction, state law requires all vehicles to stop for school buses that are loading or unloading passengers unless there is a physical median separating the roadway. Each violation costs about $280 and takes up to six points off a Georgia driver's license.

Accumulating 15 points within 24 months can result in a suspension of a driver's license, according to the Georgia Department of Driver Services. Any points on a license can increase driver insurance premiums.

Unlike red-light cameras that only activate when a vehicle runs a red light, the camera on Jimmy Carter Boulevard at South Norcross Tucker Road operates 24 hours a day. The surveillance equipment isn't designed to record images of the driver or license plate number. Only the vehicles themselves are distinguishable.

The camera is not always manned, Moloney said. Officers receive the video 48 hours after it has been recorded. Images are only viewed when a known incident has occurred, Moloney said.

Acknowledging civil libertarians' arguments against the expanded use of surveillance cameras, Moloney said there is no reason to be alarmed about privacy issues with this new camera.

"If these cameras had the capability of zooming in and watching drivers' pick their nose; yeah, that's kind of creepy," Moloney said. "But you just see cars on the highway ... at best you can maybe see movement inside the car, and the make and model."

Duluth police have also been cracking down on motorists who pass school buses. Last month, they announced a pilot program to mount cameras on the stop bars of two Gwinnett County school buses with routes in the city.

The cameras will be installed this summer. If successful, more could be added to the fleet, said Sloan Roach, spokeswoman for Gwinnett County Public Schools.